New Delhi: The NDA government is gradually weakening the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) by taking away its proactive role in disaster prevention and then in relief work, its former Vice-Chairman M Shashidhar Reddy said in New Delhi on Monday.
He accused the government of downsizing the number of NDMA's members and downgrading its status in order to make it weaker.
"Today NDMA is virtually non-existent. The reason is that work given to them has been completely diluted. There is no Vice-Chairman and the three members working in the body have not been allocated any work," Reddy told in New Delhi.
He criticised the government for reconstituting the disaster management body.
"NDMA was established in 2005. Though there were teething troubles but people started acknowledging its efforts. Its efforts during Kedarnath tragedy and Phailin cyclone in 2013 were well recognised.
"The NDA government has now changed the constitution of NDMA. The government can make any number of changes as long as these changes improve system. Nobody has problem with that. But the changes brought by them have weakened the institution and rendered it toothless," said Reddy, who resigned from the post of NDMA Vice Chairman in June 2014.
He said the post of Vice-Chairman, which used to be of Cabinet Minister rank during the UPA's tenure, has been downgraded to Cabinet Secretary level. NDMA members, who used have Minister of State level, are now have secretary-level status.
"There will be difficulty in coordination with the states in this regard. If a Vice-Chairman of Cabinet Minister status goes to a state he will be meeting the Chief Minister more easily than somebody of Cabinet Secretary level. These are issues with protocol also," Reddy said.
Reddy said disaster management is a continuous work. "But now, my biggest worry is that disaster preparedness in the country will take a big hit in case NDMA is not allowed to do its work," Reddy said.
He accused the government of ignoring the Kedarnath tragedy. "There was a press conference on floods by two Cabinet Ministers on June 16. They forgot that two years ago, the Kedarnath floods had occurred. Nobody mentioned about it," Reddy said.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had in October 2013 held an important meeting to review disaster preparedness in the country. Various decisions were taken to prevent disaster and guidelines on response preparedness, better observational and forecasting capabilities were finalised, he said.
"There were committees formed. What is happening to those committees? Are all these matters being discussed? I do not feel so," Reddy said.
He said there has to be earmarking of separate funds for disaster management related works, improvements in communication infrastructure, and disaster relief and risk transfer through insurance, among others.