Context: The Ministry of Home Affairs decided to treat COVID-19 as a notified disaster for the purpose of providing assistance under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).
- Similarly, US President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in the USA invoking the Stafford Act, as per which, the federal government contributes about 75 percent to the cost of relief for states.
- In the past, there have been demands from states to declare certain events as natural disasters, such as the Uttarakhand flood in 2013.
- No legal provision to declare a national calamity: In 2001, the National Committee on Disaster Management mandated to look into the parameters that should define a national calamity did not suggest any fixed criterion.
About the notification:
- It said the items and norms of assistance under SDRF include a compensation of Rs 4 lakh per deceased, including those involved in relief work and for COVID-19 positive people requiring hospitalisation, the costs will be in accordance to rates fixed by the state governments.
Significance of the move
- The state government can use SDRF funds for providing temporary accommodation, food, clothing and medical care for people affected and sheltered in quarantine camps, other than home quarantine, or for cluster containment operations.
- SDRF funds will also be used to build capacity in the form of additional testing centres and ensuring protective equipment for police, healthcare and municipal authorities, as well as that of thermal scanners and other necessary equipment for government hospitals.
Disaster Management Act, 2005
Disaster Management Act, 2005 provides for the effective management of disaster in India.
- Overall responsibility: The Disaster Management Division of the Ministry of Home Affairs has the overall responsibility for national disaster response.
- Funds: The Act provides for financial mechanisms like the National Disaster Mitigation Fund and similar funds at the state and district levels.
- The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), headed by the Prime Minister
- State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs) headed by the Chief Ministers
- District Disaster Management Authorities (DDMAs) headed by the District Collector or District Magistrate or Deputy Commissioner
What is a disaster?
- According to the Disaster Management Act, 2005, a disaster is defined as - “a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from natural or man made causes, or by accident or negligence which results in substantial loss of life or human suffering or damage to, and destruction of, property, or damage to, or degradation of, environment, and is of such a nature or magnitude as to be beyond the coping capacity of the community of the affected area”.
- The Ministry of Home Affairs in its document titled “Disaster Management in India”, has defined a disaster as an “extreme disruption of the functioning of a society that causes widespread human, material, or environmental losses that exceed the ability of the affected society to cope with its own resources.”
Types of disasters: The High Power Committee on Disaster Management (1999) identified 31 disaster categories organised into five major sub-groups, which are:
- Water and climate related disasters
- Geological related disasters
- Chemical industrial and nuclear related disasters
- Biological related disasters, which includes biological disasters
Disaster Response Funds: A Comparison
State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF)
National Disaster Response Fund
The State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) is the primary fund available with States for disaster response and is constituted under Section 48 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 (DM Act).
National Disaster Response Fund is defined in Section 46 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 (DM Act) as a fund managed by the Central Government for meeting the expenses for emergency response, relief and rehabilitation due to any threatening disaster situation or disaster.
The Central Government contributes 75% of SDRF allocation for general category States/UTs and 90% for special category States/UTs (NE States, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir).
NDRF is constituted to supplement the funds of the State Disaster Response Funds (SDRF) of the states to facilitate immediate relief in case of calamities of a severe nature.
SDRF is located in the ‘Public Account’ under ‘Reserve Fund’.
The corpus of the SDRF will be the grant recommended by the Finance Commission (FC) under Article 275 (1) of the Constitution.
The Union Government has been financing the NDRF through the levy of a cess and the SDRF as grants-in-aid.
NDRF is located in the "Public Accounts" of Government of India under "Reserve Funds not bearing interest"
A National Calamity Contingency Duty (NCCD) is levied to finance the NDRF and additional budgetary support is provided as and when necessary.
Cyclone, drought, earthquake, fire, flood, tsunami, hailstorm, landslide, avalanche, cloudburst, pest attack, frost and cold waves.
Local Disaster: A State Government may use up to 10 percent of the funds available under the SDRF for providing immediate relief to the victims of natural disasters that they consider to be ‘disasters’ within the local context in the State and which are not included in the notified list of disasters of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Natural calamities of cyclone, drought etc. considered to be of severe nature by Government of India (GoI) and requiring expenditures by a state government in excess of its own SDRF will qualify for immediate relief assistance from NDRF.
The financial assistance from SDRF/NDRF is for providing immediate relief and is not compensation for loss/damage to properties /crops.
For projects exclusively for the purpose of mitigation, i.e, measures aimed at reducing the risk, impact or effect of a disaster or threatening disaster situation a separate fund called National Disaster Mitigation Fund has to be constituted.