Proposal to raise 2 more battalions of SDRF gathering dust during past over three years

Even instructions of Guv, CM not being taken seriously

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, June 12: Notwithstanding the fact that 13 districts of the State are prone to multiple hazards and existing manpower of the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) is not in a position to effectively deal with the disasters, Home Department is sleeping over the proposal to raise two more battalions during the past over three and half years.
Astonishingly, the slackness is prevailing even after the explicit instructions in this regard by the Governor N N Vohra and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti besides approval by the State Disaster Management Authority.
Sources in Police Headquarters told EXCELSIOR that for specialized response to the disasters and emergencies both natural and man-made, the State Government vide Order No.159 (HG)-Home dated February 21, 2012 declared two Auxiliary Police battalions as State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) battalions and this was followed by re-orientation of the personnel of these battalions through various specialized training courses both inside and outside the State so as to make them capable to manage the natural and man-made disasters.
However, with the passage of time the existing strength of these two SDRF battalions was found inadequate in view of increase in man-made disasters and natural calamities and accordingly need of creating two more battalions was felt.
Vide Communication No. GB/ M-30/ 2014/ 50435-37 dated September 26, 2014 addressed to Principal Secretary to Government, Home Department, Director General of Police (DGP) sought sanction to the creation of two more battalions of SDRF to ensure availability of such personnel beyond the capital cities of Jammu and Srinagar.
“The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has declared Jammu, Srinagar, Kupwara, Baramulla, Budgam, Pulwama, Anantnag, Leh, Kargil, Doda, Udhampur, Poonch and Rajouri as multi-hazardous districts and given the meager manpower resources the existing SDRF battalions are not in a position to cater to the desired ends”, the DGP mentioned in the communication.
As there was no response, the Director General of Police again took up the matter with the Principal Secretary to Government Home Department vide communication dated January 2, 2015. In this communication, again request was made for early sanction to creation of two SDRF battalions and requirement of disaster management equipment for each battalion on the pattern of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).
Since then Police Headquarters have sent a number of communications to the Home Department stressing the urgency to raise two more battalions of SDRF but neither the proposal has been rejected nor accepted by the Home Department for unknown reasons, sources informed.
“The slackness is prevailing despite the fact that State Disaster Management Authority in its meeting held under the chairpersonship of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on August 16, 2017 too felt an increasing need for having two additional battalions of SDRF”, they said while disclosing that in the meeting the proposal of Additional Director General of Police, Civil Defence, Home Guards and SDRF for creation of two additional battalions was approved.
Even Governor N N Vohra while attending the 55th Raising Day of Home Guards and Civil Defence on December 6, 2017 had urged the Government to raise more SDRF battalions on the ground that J&K falls in Seismic Zones-IV and V as such vulnerable to natural disasters particularly earthquakes.
“Not only on raising of two more battalions of SDRF the Government is also dilly-dallying on proposal regarding creation of additional manpower in the existing two SDRF battalions on the pattern of NDRF”, sources said while disclosing that the present sanctioned strength of existing SDRF battalions is 805 which is deficient by 345 personnel as compared to NDRF battalion whose sanctioned strength is 1150 personnel.
Due to this the components of SDRF at district headquarters have only 20 personnel against the requirement of at least 40 to 50 personnel per team to deal with all types of disaster situations like flood, snow avalanche, earthquake and man-made disasters. Moreover, areas like Dachan, Padder, Bani, Basohli, Karnah, Tangdhar, Uri, Gurez, Nubra and other far-flung areas are without any SDRF component.
“The strength of two existing SDRF battalions are appointee of 1979 and 1987 and nearly 60% personnel have crossed the age of 50 years as such are not suitable for disaster response activities which require high-level of fitness”, sources said.
They informed that process to recruit constables in SDRF battalions, which was initiated in 2012, has yet not been concluded because of dilly-dallying approach of the concerned authorities.
“It seems that Government has not learnt any lesson from the devastating floods of 2014 when manpower of SDRF was found disproportionate to the actual requirement for the rescue operations”, sources remarked.