The Disaster Management Act, 2005 is in news these days yet again. The Act was enacted in the country on 26th December, 2005. It came into effect in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, when the country lost thousands of lives. It was passed by the government for efficient management of disasters, including preparation of mitigation strategies, capacity-building and related matters.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi serves as the head of the National Disaster Management Authority, the nodal agency which holds the mandate to lay down policies for disaster management. With the western and eastern coasts of the country facing two major cyclonic storms over the last 10 days, PM Modi in his recent address of Mann KI Baat, had acknowledged the efforts of the rescue team which are part of the governing bodies established under the Disaster Management Act.
– Provisions of the Act
The Act aims to manage disasters, including preparation of mitigation strategies, capacity-building and a lot more.
The Act also designates the Ministry of Home Affairs as the nodal ministry responsible for looking after the overall national disaster management in the country. The Act also contains provisions for financial mechanisms including creation of funds for emergency response like the National Disaster Response Fund.
Governing bodies that were established under the Act include –
1. The National Disaster Management Authority or NDMA:
It is the nodal central body for disaster management coordination, with the Prime Minister as its Chairperson. It is responsible for framing the policies, plans and guidelines for disaster management to ensure an effective & strong response during any disaster.
2. Second is the National Executive Committee or NEC which assists NDMA & prepares National Disaster Management Plan for the whole country.
3. On the state and district level, we have SDMA & NDMA responsible for drawing the disaster plan for states & districts respectively.
4. Then, there is NDRF or National Disaster Response Force which directly responds to a threatening disasters and calamities. The NDRF has been playing a major role in rescuing people from disasters for years.
– Punishment clause
The DM Act immensely empowers the NDMA and the central government. So much so that regardless of any law in effect, the Central Govt can issue instructions to any authority anywhere in India to assist and contribute in disaster management. Failure to follow such directions leads to violation of the act.
The Act comprises 79 sections and 11 chapters. And Chapter 10 of the Act deals with ‘Offences and Penalties’.
Under Section 51, anyone refusing or failing to follow orders is liable for punishment with imprisonment up to one year, or fine, or both.
Article 52 guarantees imprisonment for almost two years and a fine on any person making false claims to gain relief benefits. Article 54 enforces imprisonment of one year or a fine on anyone circulating false alarms about the severity of a disaster.
These two articles of the act, i.e. Article 52 and 54 have gained importance in the recent times. This is because, lately, a lot of news and updates about COVID have been flooding social media platforms which fail to check the credibility of the news.
– COVID-19 and the ambit of DM Act
Though the Act came into effect 16 years ago, it got popular and made headlines with the onset of COVID-19 and PM Modi’s call for a nationwide lockdown last year in May 2020. The lockdown was imposed under the same Disaster Management Act, 2005.