It has been a very busy month for the Disaster Management Cell at the Pune district collectorate. First,the Shindewadi accident that killed two in the first week of June,and then the Uttarakhand flash floods in which 321 people from Pune district were stranded.
While the cell on the first floor of the collectorate building is abuzz with anxious calls from relatives of pilgrims stranded in Uttarakhand,the officer heading the cell,the District Disaster Management Officer (DDMO),has his own emergency to cope with for the last two months,he has not received his salary as he officially does not exist.
His three-year contract with the state government,as is the case of DDMOs in other districts in the state,expired on May 31,2013. Until the contracts are renewed,the disaster management cells in the state are officially without heads.
The cells were established with the support of the World Bank,United Kingdom and the United Nations Development Programme in 2006.
In 2009,foreign funding stopped and the state government took over the disaster cells. In April 2010,the government recruited District Disaster Management Officers (DDMO),a Class-I post,to head the cells on a monthly remuneration of Rs 22,000 on a three-year contract.
The contract ended on March 31. The proposals from various district collectorates have been sent to the state government for either fresh recruitment of DDMOs,or extension of the contract of the present DDMOs. No decision on this has been taken. Until the government passes an order,we cant pay the DDMOs, said a collectorate official who did not wish to be quoted.
The cell undertakes activities such as training government and private company staff in tackling emergency situations such as floods,fires,and accidents; undertaking evacuation drills in schools,colleges,IT companies,manufacturing companies; monitoring and coordinating search and rescue operations in emergency situations,among others.
Other officers with the collectorate said the job of a DDMO demanded a lot of hardwork with 24×7 availability. He has to rush to the spot immediately in case a situation arises and has to coordinate and make senior officials like the tehsildar run around. How does the government expect them to do this without pay? said an official.
Not only that,the cell in Pune does not have its own support staff. The clerks and assistants here are temporarily deputed from other departments.
The seven staffers at Pune Disaster Management Cell have been deputed from different departments for periods ranging from a few months to a year. The cell doesnt have a vehicle at its disposal.
Relatives of pilgrims from Pune district missing or stranded in Uttarakhand have complained about inadequate help from the cell. They said the cell did not have information about the situation on ground zero and failed to address the worries of relatives of stranded pilgrims.