A two day seminar on “Role of Army in Disaster Management” was organised at IDSA Auditorium, by CLAWS on 13 and 14 Sep 07. A large number of serving and retired military officers attended the seminar.
Lt Gen Susheel Gupta, PVSM, UYSM, DCOAS (IS&T) had inaugurated the seminar on 13 Sep 07.
The seminar was held with the following objectives in mind:-
(a) To gain an insight in to the macro issues pertaining to Disaster Management in the country consequent to the setting up of the NDMA.
(b) Understanding of Institutional Mechanisms at various levels and the implementation of these mechanisms for risk reduction, mitigation and relief.
(c) Look in to aspects of joint planning between military and civil authorities including command and control, financial and de-induction aspects.
(d) Obtain awareness of NBC disasters and learn about their challenges, prevention and management.
(e) Carry out a detailed analysis of the role of the Army in disaster management and see whether a need exists to train and equip the Army for Disaster Management. Participation
Participation was from serving Army, Navy and Air Force Officers. A large number of senior retired officers also were present on both days of the seminar.
The seminar was held over three sessions, with two sessions being held on the first day and one session on the second day. Details of themes, subjects and analysts are at Appendix ‘A’. Issues Discussed during Plenary Sessions.
Geo-Climatic Conditions of India: The unique geo-climatic conditions of India make it rightly vulnerable to natural hazards. About 58% of India’s geographical area is earth quake prone. 68% of the area is drought prone, 12% is flood prone and 8% is prone to cyclones. About one million houses are damaged annually with irreparable losses. Thus there is a need to adopt a proactive approach for prevention, mitigation and preparedness.
Paradigm Shift in Disaster Management in India: By passing and enacting the Disaster Management Act (DM Act, 2005) which envisaged the creation of the NDMA, the Government of India made a paradigm shift at the national level towards disaster management. From the erstwhile relief-centric response, the focus has shifted to proactive and holistic approach to disaster management, with greater emphasis on pre disaster mitigation, prevention and preparedness.
National Disaster Response Forces (NDRF): The DM Act, 2005 has mandated the creation of a National Disaster Response Force (NDRF). Presently the NDRF comprises eight battalions which have been positioned in nine vulnerable locations with state of a disaster situation. Four of these battalions are equipped and trained to deed with NBC related disasters. Four training Centres have also been set up by respective paramilitary forces to train the NDRF personnel.
Civil Defence and Home Guards: The mandate of the Civil Defence and Home Guards has been Changed and redefined to play a predominant and effective role in Disaster Management. They will be the Key responders in a disaster situation.
Fire Services: Fire Services are also amongst the first responders, but are grossly deficient of manpower and state of the art equipment. Their state in terms of manpower and equipment is in the process of being upgraded.
Armed Forces: In concept, the Armed Forces are to be called to come to the aid of Civil authorities only when the situations it beyond the capability of the civil administration. In practice, however, the armed forces form the core of the government response capacity and are the crucial immediate responders in all high intensity disaster situations. On their part, the Indian Army has earmarked lead formations in each Command. But, specialized equipment such as portable search and rescue equipment such as thermal imagers, portable folding saws to cut through concrete, iron and wood are not held with the Army.
Disaster Management in Foreign Countries: The institutional mechanisms in place in foreign countries such the United States, china, Indonesia and Japan were also presented and to enable drawing comparisons amongst these countries and in India.
Risk Reduction: Disaster risk reduction and mitigation are well established norms globally, however, in India these are only now permeating down to state and district level. However, a lot more needs to be done in this field so as to reduce the risk to the civilian population. The dilemma in mitigation lies in the availability and capacity of the administration to employ resources for risk reduction, especially in India where resources are limited.
NBC Disasters: The aspects of NBC related disasters were dealt with including NBC terrorism related disasters were analyzed. It emerged that while it may not be possible to completely rule out and prevent a terrorist engineered NBC attack, the damage caused can be reduced considerably by developing surveillance mechanisms for detection and identification of the NBC hazard; provision of physical protection of individuals through pre and post exposure countermeasures; provision of state of the art decontamination services and developing and manufacturing of medical counter measures. For the armed forces to deal with NBC related disasters there is a need to train earmarked personnel in management of casualties and conduct exercise to ensure efficacy of response plans.
Debate on Continuance of Traditional Role of the Army in Disaster Management vis-à-vis Restructuring of Army to deal with Disasters : A debate on whether the tradition role of the Army in Disaster Management should continue, wherein Army would continue to be the first responders in a disaster situation even before the civilian resources have been deployed as against restructuring of the Army was initiated on the second day. It emerged that the Army does not need to restructure to deal with disasters. The present organisations structures are well suited to deal with disaster. However, the lead formations in various commanders need to work out the creation of composite teams to enable better and focused response. The need to strengthen the sub areas and areas to deal with disasters was emphasised. Also the raising of TA battalions on home and hearth lines specifically for disaster management was mooted. The house was in full agreement to the above proposal.
Pragmatic Role for the Army in Disaster Management : It emerged that a pragmatic role for the Army in Disaster Management must keep in mind the capabilities of the Army. However, the civilian authorities will continue to be overly dependent on military and army assets for disaster response. Hence a pragmatic role for the Army in disaster management would primarily remain focused towards search, rescue and restore operations. Since the Army takes care to respect local culture and customs in disaster response has a profound effect on the community’s ability to recover from the disaster. Miscellaneous.
Seminar Material All delegates were given a set of the seminar papers at the commencement of the seminar. A CD containing the seminar papers is enclosed. Conclusion.
The deliberations over two days of the seminar definitely led to a better understanding of various viewpoints on the subjects. It also provided valuable and thought provoking inputs in to connected aspects which will enable further studies and research to be undertaken in the future.