Disaster management mechanism in a shambles

The Capital has been struck time and again by terrorists because of the mileage they are able to derive, but the disaster management mechanism in this highly sensitive city still remains mired in red-tape with bureaucratic ego, multiplicity of authority and a lackadaisical approach towards carrying out even basic tasks, like mock drills, making a mockery of the entire process.

Sources in the Delhi Government said despite Delhi having been targeted on numerous occasions, the disaster management mechanism here remains far from satisfactory. The problems plaguing it are many.

While the Disaster Management Act 2005 had led to the setting up of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority under the Lieutenant-Governor and the constitution of District Disaster Management Authority in each of the nine districts, these bodies continue to suffer on account of multiplicity of authority.

“The Delhi Police, which is the first responder in any disaster, be it manmade or natural, Delhi Traffic Police, Municipal Corporation of Delhi, New Delhi Municipal Council and Delhi Development Authority all come under the Union Government and so the Delhi Government has little say in case their officials do not adhere to any rules or directions. Only a report can be made out to the Centre against them and the matter rests there,” said a senior official.

Since all the District DMAs are headed by the respective Deputy Commissioners of the Revenue Department of Delhi Government, the Delhi Police does not like to report to them as it insists that in a commissioner system, as in Delhi, it need not report directly to the civil administration.

The Deputy Commissioners of Delhi Police, who are notified members of the DDMA, never attend its meetings. Though the Lieutenant-Governor had on November 30, 2009, issued an order stating that “non-attendance by members of District Disaster Management Authorities needs to be dealt severely with disciplinary action against defaulters”, no action has been taken against any DCP thus far for not attending the meets.

“It is ironical that when these DCPs are posted in other Union Territories they attend the meetings of the DDMAs there since the police is part of the State administration in all other States and Union Territories,'' an official pointed out.

A key element of preparedness for disaster management are mock drills. While in United Kingdom and even Russia these drills are carried out with an element of “surprise”, in Delhi they are planned much in advance and even the day and time are decided several weeks ahead. “There are numerous instances in which the health, fire, police or civil administration teams have reached the site even before the drill had begun. This defeats the purpose of the exercise as the response time cannot be properly gauged.”

On the other hand, there have also been instances where the district police has boycotted a drill altogether. One such instance took place at National Stadium on February 14, 2010, when the New Delhi police had not even bothered to attend to the call of a blast there.

In Delhi, even the response of the health teams is often not up to the mark. “Use of triage or band to segregate serious victims from the less serious ones is a standard practice abroad. But while in Delhi such bands were distributed to hospitals in large numbers ahead of the Commonwealth Games, they are seldom used.”

To top it, the National Disaster Response Force, which is a specialised organisation under the National Disaster Management Authority, is located in the ITBP complex at Greater Noida in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh from where it would take its team at least two hours to respond to a crisis situation in Delhi. The force has for long been demanding a place to locate in New Delhi to quickly respond to any emergency here but is yet to find a place.

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 11:14:31 AM |

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