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Amendments to Disaster Management Act may retain NEC led by Union Home Secy


NEW DELHI: The National Executive Committee (NEC), which is responsible for drafting India’s lockdown and unlock guidelines to manage the Covid-19 pandemic, may be retained under a proposed amendment to the Disaster Management (DM) Act, 2005, officials aware of the matter said.

The proposal to amend the Act and the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 is likely to be introduced in the upcoming session of Parliament, starting September 14, they said.

“Discussions are under way for amendments into the bills. The role and functions of NEC were instrumental in implementation, coordination and monitoring of lockdown guidelines with States during Covid-19,” a government official familiar with the details said.

The amendments will take better cognizance of social realities for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) so that “no one is discriminated against based on caste or religion while providing relief and rehabilitation from disaster,” the official explained.

According to Section 8 of the DM Act, the NEC is chaired by the Union home secretary and comprises secretary-level officers from the ministries and departments having control of agriculture, atomic energy, defence, drinking water supply, environment and forests, finance (expenditure), health, power, rural development, science and technology, space, telecommunications, urban development and water resources.

In 2013, a task force headed by former IAS officer PK Mishra had suggested scrapping of the NEC and recommended transfer of its powers and functions to the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) – headed by the Union cabinet secretary – and the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).

A Gujarat cadre officer, Mishra is presently the principal secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Due to the overlap in functions with the NCMC, the task force said in its report, “At the time of crisis, the NCMC takes over, NEC hardly has any role to perform.”

It further recommended that the “NEC may be discontinued. NCMC may be included in the DM Act, 2005, and perform the tasks specifically related to response and coordination as envisaged by Section 10 of the Act.”

As per the DM Act, all ministries, states, Union Territories, departments and agencies must have their own disaster management plans.

For amendments to the Epidemic Diseases Act, the Centre may empower law enforcement agencies and offer protection to doctors and health workers. An ordinance for safety of doctors, nurses and paramedics was passed by the Union Cabinet in April.

In 2015, India adopted three international agreements with bearing on disaster management. They include the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR), Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Paris Agreement on Climate Change, for which a National Plan was drawn up in 2019.

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