House panel talks disaster management system,picks major holes

In the wake of the devastation in Uttarakhand,the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament Monday discussed a

Written by Pradeep Kaushal | New Delhi | Published:July 2, 2013 3:29 am

In the wake of the devastation in Uttarakhand,the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament Monday discussed a Comptroller and Auditor General report on ‘Disaster Preparedness in India’ and found major deficiencies in the disaster management system.

It found,for instance,that NDMA’s National Executive Committee had not met even once between 2008 and 2012 though the country witnessed major calamities in this period: earthquake in Sikkim in 2011 and floods in Ladakh in 2010. And that the NDMA,constituted in 2006,did not have any rules of business to conduct its internal affairs till now.

PAC members asked the government’s representatives — home secretary Anil Goswami,NDMA secretary Shyam Agrawal,MeT’s Seismology director R S Dattatreya,advisor to the earth sciences ministry K J Ramesh — what measures they intended to take to obtain emergency action plans on large dams from states. The CAG report,tabled in Parliament last March,had revealed that only eight states had prepared emergency action plans for just 192 of the 4,728 large dams as of September 2011.

The panel asked them about the recommendations made by a task force led by former NDMA secretary P K Mishra that was set up in 2011 to “examine and review the ambiguity,constrains and bottlenecks” in the Disaster Management Act,2005.

Goswami replied that he had not studied the task force’s report,submitted in March,because he had just taken as home secretary. At this,sources said,PAC chief Murli Manohar Joshi asked sarcastically,“Are you going to form another committee to study the report?”

Joshi then asked Goswami how long he would need to examine the task force’s report and come back to the PAC. “As soon as possible,” Goswami replied.

Bhartruhari Mahtab of the BJD asked MeT officials if they had warned of flash flood in Uttarakhand. They indeed had,they replied,on June 14,a day before the cloudburst.

Satish Mishra of the BSP,N K Singh of the Janata Dal(U) and Thambi Durai of the AIADMK pointed out to the officials that information given by them on the flow of disaster management funds to states,in accordance with the 13th Finance Commission report,was incomplete. When the officials sough to differ,Thambi Durai told them,“Go through the report and come back to us.”

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