Govt has outdated disaster management plans
PUNE: The monsoon is in full fury. But the disaster management plans uploaded by the state government on its official website are nine-year-old outdated ones. This was revealed in a reply by the government under the Right To Information (RTI) Act.

Although two years have passed since chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh had promised to revise these plans, the work remains unfinished. The reason: the state disaster management committee had just one meeting on March 14, 2007, since its inception on May 24, 2006.

Around 40 voluntary organisations across the state are up in arms against the state’s lackadaisical approach towards the preparedness to fight disasters, more so since the 2005 and 2006 monsoons had caused severe damages to life and property in many parts of the state.

Led by Prayas, a Pune-based voluntary organisation, the representatives of these groups held a two-day workshop in Pune on June 1 and 2. Prayas had also called for suggestions from like-minded organisations.

Based on these deliberations and the information collected from the government through the RTI Act, the ‘resources and livelihoods’ group of Prayas has come out with a set of observations regarding the state policy and the reforms that need to be carried out on a war footing.

Group member Sachin Wargade said the disaster management was part of the concurrent list and hence the state was free to formulate its own Disaster Management Act with details and issues that were specific for the state. Instead, the state opted for an easy way out by adopting the draft provisions listed in the central government’s Disaster Management Act of 2005.

The voluntary groups said, as per the Centre’s Act the local self-government bodies like municipal corporations, councils and the panchayati raj bodies have an insignificant role in disaster management. The Act emphasises only on the district administration (that is, the collectorate).

Pointing out that the local self-government bodies can play a crucial role in disaster management, Warghade said the state needed to enact a legislation to involve these bodies. Also, the central Act has no provision to hold the officers accountable for not initiating the required steps to prevent disasters.

The central Act lists the jobs related to disaster management as ‘discretionary’ and not ‘mandatory’. It does not impose a time-frame to initiate required measures. That’s why the officials who have been given the charge to monitor the disaster management activities can afford to hold just one meeting in a year, Warghade said.

The groups said the state should formulate a separate Act, with more stringent norms that make the officials accountable.

While appreciating that the government has appointed three non-government persons on the state committee — though this was not mandated by the central Act — the voluntary groups have demanded that the state should seek suggestions from experts and citizens while revising the disaster management plans of the districts in the state.

Govt has outdated disaster management plans-Pune-Cities-The Times of India