Public Policy Towards Natural Disasters in India

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Public Policy towards Natural Disasters in India
Disconnect Between Resolutions and Reality
Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability
(A Programme of NCAS)
B-64, Second Floor, Sarvodaya Enclave, New Delhi- 110 017, India Tel: 91-11-26537603 E-mail:
National Centre for Advocacy Studies
Serenity Complex, Ramnagar Colony, Pune- 411 021, India
Tel: 91-20-22952003 / 4 E-mail:
Public Policy towards Natural Disasters in India
Disconnect Between Resolutions and Reality
Prepared by
Subrat Das
Editorial Team
Praveen Jha, Amitabh Behar
Research Inputs
Anurag Srivastava
Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability
(A programme of NCAS)
B 64, Second Floor, Sarvodaya Enclave,
New Delhi – 110 017, India
Tel: 91-11-26537603
© CBGA, 2005
The contents of this paper may be reproduced by voluntary organisations, social action groups, people’s organisations, public interest professionals and citizens for noncommercial purposes with due acknowledgement of the source. Any other form of reproduction, storage in retrieval system or transmission by any means requires prior permission from CBGA.

(For private circulation only.)
Executive Summary
Natural disasters have always been there since the beginning of human civilizations, but their impact on human beings has been on the rise the world over. Natural disasters of similar nature and intensity, however, affect the developed and underdeveloped countries differently in terms of the damage of property and loss of lives caused. While the developed countries are well-equipped to cope with them through well functioning disaster mitigation, preparedness and response mechanisms; the developing countries, illequipped in terms of each of the above three parameters, suffer most because of natural disasters. The worst affected in such disasters, in any country, are undoubtedly the poor and the marginalised sections of the society. Not only are they most vulnerable to losses from disasters, their ability to recover from the shock brought by a disaster is also the lowest. In the aftermath of a disaster, the deprived sections of society face an immediate and acute shortage of resources and lose their access to livelihood in many cases. Also, disasters though specific to one region do not merely affect the people of that particular region. Loss of lives and damage caused to property and resources of various kinds impede the socio-economic development of an entire State/ province and, in some cases, the whole country. The role played by the state vis-à-vis natural disasters could be divided into some categories, interlinked with each other, which are: disaster mitigation, disaster preparedness, disaster response, and rehabilitation and recovery.

Among all the continents, Asia is considered to be most vulnerable to disasters. During 1991 to 2000, Asia accounted for as much as 83 percent of the population affected by disasters globally. India is highly prone to natural disasters, and the country has experienced very severe natural disasters at regular intervals. Among the various types of natural disasters affecting different parts of the country, floods, cyclones, earthquakes and droughts cause maximum damage to life and property; and heat wave, cold wave, avalanches, landslides, fire, and pest attacks are also taking heavy tolls on life and property at regular intervals. The Latur earthquake of 1993-94, the Orissa super cyclone of 1999, the Bhuj earthquake of 2001, and the Tsunami of December 2004 are some of the most severe natural disasters that have struck the country in the recent past.

In India, the basic responsibility for undertaking rescue, relief and rehabilitation measures in the event of natural disasters has been that of the State Government concerned. The role of the Central Government has only been supportive, in terms of physical and financial resources and complementary...
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