Mumbai: The State Cabinet on Tuesday appointed a sub-committee of senior ministers to ensure compensation is disbursed on an emergency basis, bypassing stipulated calamity norms in case of a major natural disaster. The committee will be headed by the Minister for Relief and Rehabilitation and will have six other cabinet ministers on it, senior officials said.
The committee’s mandate will be to fix compensation in cases of major natural calamities. The existing calamities defined under the disaster rules are excess rainfall, hailstorm, sudden fire, deaths and damage due to lightning, drought and unseasonal rains. Compensation is also granted in case of house collapse and death of livestockduring drought. “Most calamities are compensated for as per the standards set by a Government Resolution of May 13, 2015,” an official said. For example, farmers are compensated for crop damages up to 30% because of hailstorm or unseasonal rains. Butat times when disbursement has to be made right away, the rules become a hindrance. Therefore, the committee has been given powers to grant relief out of turn in cases of major calamities.
The National Disaster Management Guidelines have already defined what constitutes natural calamities. These cover crop damages, soil erosion, damage to fishing catch, among others. “All of these will now be covered under the scope of the new committee,” said the official.
There has been a call to redefine the State list of natural disasters. As a result, the government, for the first time this year, included "lightning" in its list of natural disastersbut only after the number of victims eligible for compensation turned out to be over 1,000. In 2015, 41 people had lost their lives in Nashik, Aurangabad, Jalna, Parbhani, Osmanabad, Yavatmal and Wardha. An estimated 100 people die every year from lightning strikes in the State.
A research paper on lightning deaths in India published in the Royal Meteorological Society, U.K., had highlighted 5,259 fatalities between 1979 and 2011. Researchers said the maximum number of fatalities were found in Maharashtra (29%), West Bengal (12%) and Uttar Pradesh (9%). But since lightning was not defined as a natural disaster, compensation has been awarded on an ad-hoc basis.