Natural disaster vs national calamity: The debate that kills precious time

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A disaster strikes without notice and leaves people helpless. Ironically, while there is no certainty of a natural calamity affecting lives and property, the Indian government has its borders outlined.

When can the Centre intervene and when does the State fight nature alone, all are mentioned in the rule book, irrespective of the massiveness of destruction.


Disaster versus national calamity

Clearly, there is a difference in the Government approach to both the situations. A disaster is a lower stage of calamity that involves 'less' lives and property of lower value. In such cases, the State has to bear the resurrection expenses from the balance amount left in its crisis management fund and does not qualify to get any help from the centre or the NDRF. Certainly, the Centre is very judicious when it comes to the deciding whether a disaster should be accorded a national calamity.

The Andhra Pradesh cyclone or the Odisha floods are a case in point. Although demanded by the Andhra CM Chandrababu Naidu, the Centre could not declare the cyclone as a national calamity. The Centre may, however, consider it as a calamity of severe nature, which again would have different norms.

[Read: Srinagar: Shutdown called by traders for flood-affected people]

According to the National Disaster Management Authority Act, if an incident is accorded calamity of a 'severe nature' status, the state may get 'additional' funds for rehabilitation from the NDRF.

Jammu and Kashmir floods 2015 and the debate

Incidentally, the debate between the above-mentioned accords kill a lot of time when it comes to disbursing relief and rescue. Be it the Jammu and Kashmir floods or the deadly Uttarakhand deluge of the 2013, relief came, but was late. Time went in deciding whether it should be a mere disaster or a national calamity. The same fate is meted on the Jammu flood victims in remote areas who are still waiting for relief even after one year.


Traders here have now decided to go on a strike unless the government sends them help and rehabilitation.

Rendered helpless, the victims depend solely on the private organizations that reach remote areas scouring for people in need. The government, often named a silent spectator, has little to do as it is bound by the rule book.

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