A clear 'chain of command' should be in place when multiple stakeholders get on-board to combat a disaster and government agencies should ensure that India becomes a top-notch nation for managing such emergencies, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said Saturday.
Officiating his first public event after taking charge of the ministry, Shah said it is important to quickly develop better resilience and capability against disasters given that India is much prone to catastrophes owing to its varied topography and expanse.
The minister was speaking at the inauguration of a two-day annual conference organised here by the NDRF on capacity building of state disaster response forces (SDRFs) in consultation with home guards, civil defence and fire services.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) is a federal force of the country and has 12 battalions based across various states for quick response to any emergency, manmade or natural. Addressing the delegates at the meeting Shah said a chain of command between various agencies, stakeholders and department should be decided and formed when dealing with a disaster.
"This is very important as I have seen a very chaotic situation emerging in absence of this protocol and order of hierarchy," he said, adding it is a big lacuna in the country's bureaucratic system that no one pays heed to the other till a formal or official order is issued. The minister said agencies like the NDRF should not rest on their past laurels but strive to do better.
"This is now the time to work and ensure that India becomes the number one country in disaster management. The path to achieve this goal is long but that should be our target. It should be our effort that the world takes note from our best practices and counter-disaster models," Shah said.
He said the NDRF and other similar agencies should "investigate, analyse and pick errors" once they complete an operation, as this exercise will ensure that the work is completed in the true sense. Shah asked the NDRF, an agency under his ministry, to collaborate with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and develop indigenous equipment to combat disaster not only for Indian agencies but also for neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
The Home minister assured the 12,000 personnel-strong force that the government will fulfil all their requirements for modern gadgets, equipment and infrastructure. "It is very important to ensure that the motivation of the force's personnel working at the ground level remains high. It is they who commit their lives in the line of duty," Shah said.
He expressed concerns over increasing instances of forest fires, especially in the hills, and stressed upon the NDRF and its sister agencies to find out ways to effectively combat such instances. He asked the agencies working in this domain to compile data of all disaster-combat equipment in the country, down to the district level, so that this information comes handy when a disaster strikes.
The minister said disaster management and combat was a "completely neglected" issue before 2000 and was taken only seriously after the 2001 earthquake in Gujarat's Bhuj. At the event, NDRF Director General (DG) S N Pradhan said his force will be able to have its presence in virtually every part of the country by August and they were also working to have a women personnel combat component in every unit.