The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) on Monday asked states to be more proactive on disaster management and appoint full-time chiefs for disaster management authorities.

“The responsibility to respond to any disaster is with the states. I know many states which are not aware what funds are available with them for natural disaster. We need to educate the states”, NDMA’s Vice-chairman M. Shashidhar Reddy said.

He said that states have been insisted to appoint full-time chiefs of disaster management authorities in their jurisdiction.

The Chief Minister in a state is the head of the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) and the Revenue Minister is the Vice-chairman and other ministers are members.

“Some states have appointed Chief Executive Officers for SDMAs whereas Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh have agreed to appoint full-time chiefs”, Mr. Reddy said.

“In the light of the Uttarakhand tragedy, I want to drive home this point for all the Chief Ministers (that) the disaster management architecture of any state needs to be geared up. This will be a great learning from the Uttarakhand catastrophe”, he said.

“It is a very unfortunate incident. The whole nation feels about it. But the people who manage disasters convert this into an opportunity to prepare to deal with disasters in a better way. There will definitely be lessons to be learned. This is the process which will take some time to fully understand the magnitude and the manner in which the whole thing evolved and happened”, he said when asked what lessons have been learnt from the disaster in Uttarakhand.

To a question on delayed response to the Uttarakhand flood, Mr. Reddy said the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) was followed.

"The local administration did get the warnings and then they started their action. There are SOPs and then things go on. You can very safely presume they were timely", he said, adding that no warning was ignored by the authorities with regard to the flood.

Mr. Reddy said he has taken up with the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is the nodal department for the NDMA, to appoint a full-time Secretary and Director General (DG) of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) under it.

"We had a serious problem of secretaries coming and going. People with the shortest tenure or nearing retirement are posted in NDMA and then they get transferred. So I took it up with Prime Minister and he has agreed to have an Additional Secretary level officer posted as Secretary NDMA that will give him (officer) at least an year-and-a-half tenure", he said.

Mr. Reddy said in the past eight or nine years, there have been 8-9 DGs in the NDRF.

As per law, there has to be a separate DG for NDRF. "But so far, DG of civil defence, fire or homeguards have been officiating as DG, NDRF. This is also the issue I took up at the higher level in the MHA. We want an additional DG level post to be transferred. No need to create a post. We are pursuing our idea of additional DG level post transferred", the Vice-chairman said.

Mr. Reddy said that NDMA was trying to work to its potential despite such constraints.

"We want to leverage the situation and to see how NDMA could be more effective. About the criticism, politically people can have their views. I am one of those who believe if there is some constructive criticism we should always welcome it, appreciate it. No system is perfect and as a new organisation we should try to do best of our abilities given our constraints", he said when asked about the criticism by a section of people on the less than effective working of the NDMA.