National/State Disaster response Forces (NDRF/SDRF)
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has decided to equip 600 of its personnel in every battalion (50% of its strength) to help health workers contain the Covid-19 virus outbreak. The Centre has also invoked Disaster Management Act to put the onus on local administration to check movement of workers and daily laborer.
● The Disaster Management Act, 2005 provided for the constitution of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) for the purpose of specialized response to natural and man-made disasters. Accordingly, in 2006, NDRF was constituted with 8 Battalions.
● NDRF is a unique Force functioning under the Ministry of Home Affairs within the overall command, control and leadership of the Director General, NDRF.
● At present, the NDRF consists of 12 battalions, three each from the BSF and CRPF and two each from CISF, ITBP and SSB. The total strength of each battalion is 1,149.
● All the 12 battalions have been equipped and trained to respond to natural as well as man-made disasters. Battalions are also trained and equipped for response during chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) emergencies.
● These NDRF battalions are located at 12 different locations in the country based on the vulnerability profile of the country and to cut down the response time for their deployment at disaster sites.
● At present, 24 State/UTs have raised their State Disaster Relief Force (SDRF) as per the NationalPolicy on Disaster Management 2009.
● The SDRF are also used for Community Capacity Building and Awareness Generation programs within the State.
NDRF first flagged the threat from the COVID-19 in February and has since then been training personnel at land, seaports and airports to handle inbound passengers and create awareness.
During a medical emergency, the NDRF is third in line after doctors, paramedics/ health workers. Together with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), NDRF has trained as many as 25,700 personnel across India at various ports
Amid the continued exodus of migrants on the sixth day of the 21-day nationwide lockdown, the Centre has used the Disaster Management Act to put the onus on local administration to check movement of workers and daily laborer.
As per the Centre’s directives, it is the district administration and its officials who will be directly responsible to seal the state and district borders and also make arrangements for those stranded on the roads.
The Disaster Management Act, 2005 provides for “the effective management of disasters and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.” It allows certain financial freedom to tackle the growing epidemic.
By invoking this act, the government has now access to the National Disaster Response Fund to deal with the current crisis.
The act gives the central, state, and district authorities sweeping powers to deal with a crisis.The Act also provides for civil and criminal liabilities for those violating its provisions.
The NDRF will work in a collaborative model with the states for example, there will be a local policeman, a local medical professional, then there will be an NDRF personnel so that it can economize the whole exercise and judiciously use our force.
The burden of control and eradication of disease when it reaches alarming proportions does not fall entirely on a country’s health system. It is supported by various other agencies.
While in India, the ministry of health and family welfare is the nodal ministry handling biological and health emergencies, such crises also come under the purview of disaster management agencies, the ministry of home affairs and the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC).
India has pioneered the ‘Delhi Declaration on Emergency Preparedness’ which identifies risks, implements disaster risk reduction measures and prepares and operationalizes readiness for a broad range of disasters, including diseases and outbreaks.
The standard procedure for a health emergency would start at the point of outbreak, then be tackled from a state perspective and, finally, be seen through a national lens. However, when the threat is coming from an international source, like nCoV, the system is reversed.
In the event that a health outbreak is identified as a national threat, each state has a disease surveillance programme which sends a daily report to the NCMC and the NDMA. The latter then view the crisis from a national and inter-state perspective and work with state teams to recommend measures, check resources and connect states to border and central agencies, if needed.
States can use disaster response funds from the NDMA to detect and handle a crisis. Each state is also equipped with district emergency centres, and district magistrates become incident commanders.
Overall, our health disaster management largely rests on short-term steps for control and eradication. The long-term repercussions still need to be considered. There are other aspects of a pandemic that could have crippling effects on morale and economy. Food shortages, financial loss, miscommunication and human rights abuse are aspects of disaster management that have never been handled before.
Another loophole in the system is the presence of multiple agencies, the health and home ministries, NCMC, NDMA, NDRF, NCDC and state health departments each with a stake in biological disaster management. Having too many bureaucratic players inevitably leads to longer decision time, confusion and overlap in responsibilities. While we have the guidelines on paper, real life implementation is an altogether different story.
PEPPER IT WITH
DMA Act,2005, NDMA,SDMA,NDR and SDRFund