The role of public servants in disaster management
Role of state administration
At the state level, disaster response, relief and rehabilitation are handled by Department of Relief and Rehabilitation. The focus of this department has generally been provision of post-calamity relief, The Chief Secretary is responsible for relief operations in the state and the Relief Commissioner and Additional Relief Commissioners function under the Chief Secretary’s direction and control. Most of the states have Relief Commissioners but in some states, the Secretary, Department of Revenue is in charge of relief operations. The Government of India is working with state governments to convert the Department of Relief & Rehabilitation into Department of Disaster Management with an increased area of responsibility including disaster preparedness.
At the state level, the State Relief Commissioner supervises and controls relief operations through Collectors or Deputy Commissioners, who are the main functionaries to coordinate the relief operation at district level. The State Governments are autonomous in organizing relief operations in the event of natural disasters and in developing the long-term rehabilitation measures. The State Government’s efforts are supplemented by central Government based on the recommendations of the Finance Commission.
There is a State Crisis Management Group (SCMG) under the Chairmanship of Chief Secretary and Relief Commissioner. This Group comprises senior officers from the Departments of Revenue/relief, Home, Civil Supplies, Power, Irrigation, Water Supply, Panchayat (local selfgovernment), Agriculture, Forests, rural Development, and health, Planning, Public Works and Finance.
2 The SCMG is required to take into consideration the guidance received, from time to time, from Government of India and formulate action plans for dealing with different natural disasters. It is also the duty of the Relief Commissioner of the State to establish a Emergency Operation Center (Control Room) at State headquarters as soon as a disaster situation develops. Besides having all updated information on forecasting and warning of disaster, the EOC would also be the contact point for the various concerned agencies.
Role of District Administration
The district Administration is the focal point for field level organizations. It is responsible for implementation of all government contingency plans. Considerable powers have therefore been wrested upon the District Collector to carry out operations in the shortest possible time.
The District Administration in the country is required to prepare an advance Contingency Plan depending on the type of disaster likely to affect the district. Contingency Plans are to follow a framework as laid down nationally which comprises type of preparedness, the relief material required to be mobilized and the concerned departments that need to work together and provide an efficient feedback and monitoring system.
The District Magistrate exercises coordinating and supervisory powers over functionaries of all the Departments at the district level in the event of emergencies. During actual operations for disaster mitigation or relief, the powers of the Collector are considerably enhanced, generally, by standing instructions or orders on the subject, or by specific Governments orders, if so required. Sometimes, the administrative culture of the State concerned permits, although informally, the collector to exercise higher powers in emergency situations and the decisions are later ratified by the competent authority.
The district level Relief Committee consisting of official and non-official members including the local Legislators and the Members of Parliament reviews the relief measures.
Role of Sub-district Administration A District is sub-divided into sub-divisions and Tehsils or Talukas. The head of a sub-division is called the Sub-Divisional Officer (SDO) while the head of a Tehsil is generally known as the Tehsildar (Talukdar or Mamlatdar in some States). Contact with the individual villages is through the village Officer or Patwari who has one or more villages in his charge. When a disaster is apprehended, the entire machinery of the District, including officers of technical and other Departments, swings into action and maintains almost continuous contact with each village in the disaster threatened area. In the case of extensive disasters like drought, contact is maintained over a short cycle of a few days. The entire hierarchy right from the Central Government (the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation in the Ministry of Agriculture and irrigation) to the District level is connected by means of a telecommunication system.
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