Does the disaster qualify to be called a National Disaster and what if it is declared so?
The state of Kerala is facing the worst floods in nearly a century. State’s ruling Left and Opposition Congress have demanded that the crisis be declared as a national disaster. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi has twice tweeted in past 24 hours that the floods be declared as a national calamity. The floods have so far claimed more than 170 lives and displaced more than 6.5 million people. So does the disaster qualify to be called a National Disaster and what if it is declared so? Here’s the answer:
As per the Disaster Management Act, 2005, clause 2 (d) a “disaster” means a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from natural or man-made causes, or by accident or negligence which results in substantial loss of life or human suffering or damage to, and destruction of, property, or damage to, or degradation of, environment, and is of such a nature or magnitude as to be beyond the coping capacity of the community of the affected area. A natural disaster includes earthquake, flood, landslide, cyclone, tsunami, urban flood, heatwave; a man-made disaster can be nuclear, biological and chemical.
This law, however, doesn’t define when a crisis can be termed as a natural disaster. In fact, there’s no fixed definition to term a national calamity as a ‘national disaster’.
As per a statement by MoS (Home) Kiren Rijiju, the existing guidelines of State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF)/ National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF), do not contemplate declaring a disaster as a ‘National Calamity’.
Earlier demands to declare a calamity as a National Disaster
Such demands were raised during Uttarakhand flood in 2013, Cyclone Hudhud in Andhra Pradesh in 2014, and the Assam floods of 2015. Later, the floods Uttarakhand and Cyclone Hudhud in Andhra Pradesh were classified as calamities of “severe nature”.
Any attempts to coin a related definition?
The 10th Finance Commission (1995-2000) had examined a proposal where to declare a disaster as “a national calamity of rarest severity” if it affects one-third of the state. However, the panel did not define a “calamity of rare severity” but stated that it has to be adjudged on a case-to-case basis. A number of aspects like the intensity of the calamity, amount of assistant needed etc have to be taken into account.