THE Union ministry of home affairs recently introduced the Disaster Management Bill (DMB) 2005 in the Rajya Sabha. The bill is being considered a major step in streamlining appropriate mitigation measures and better preparedness
for disaster. The bill gives short shrift to issues relating to the participation of local bodies in disaster management, opting instead for a centralised system. This is despite the fact that field experiences of disaster management in India show that local governance institutions like panchayats (inrural areas) and municipalities (inurban areas) are the first to reach out with relief after a disaster.
The DMB proposed a three-tier structure -- the apex body will be a National Disaster Management Authority
(NDMA) headed by the prime minister. The NDMA will lay down plans and policies for disaster management and be
assisted by an executive committee of secretaries. Similarly, disaster authorities at the state and district level headed by chief ministers and district magistrates respectively will be constituted.
In India, the approach to disasters so far has been reactive (responding to disasters after they occur) and not much attention has been paid to mitigation. DMB will rectify this by providing for institutional coordination to undertake mitigation measures, mechanisms to ensure preparedness and capacity building to handle disasters.
Critics claim DMB promotes a bureaucratic set up and lacks people's representation and needs to be proactive and multidisciplinary. It needs to
strengthen local bodies to tackle disaster and lacks resources and the capacity to handle disasters. Villagelevel disaster management committees together with a disaster management team consisting of elected representatives, health work-ers from primary health centres, volun-teers, non-governmental organisation and school teachers needs to be set up.
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