Disaster Management: A study of the legal framework in India

Disaster Management: A study of the legal framework in India

This article on ‘Disaster Management: A study of the legal framework in India‘ was written by Jignesh Parmar, an intern at Legal Upanishad.


This article will focus on “Disaster Management” and highlight the agencies that deal with disaster management in India and it will also discuss the types of disasters. Disasters may be Natural, Man-made, Complex emergencies or Pandemic emergencies. One should be aware of disaster and disaster preparedness.

Disaster hurts the poor and vulnerable the most. In a country like India, where every year floods and cyclones damage properties especially in the Eastern and North Eastern part of the country, directly affect the country’s economy at large. The disaster not only affects life but also the working conditions of the poor. To illustrate, a person who owns a small shop that was destroyed because of disaster, might not be able to recover that loss in the future.

What are disasters?

Disasters are serious disruptions to the functioning of a community that exceeds its capacity to cope using its own resources, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies”.

Types of Disasters

Natural Disaster

Natural disasters are occurred by natural phenomena. A natural disaster is also described in law as an ‘Act of God’ also known as ‘vis major’ which means ‘act which is unstoppable created by nature and destroys one’s property.

There further sub-classification of Natural Disasters and they are as follows:

  • Geophysical – (eg. Volcanic Eruption, Tsunamis, etc.)
  • Climatological – Occurred because of extreme change in climate for eg. Drought, Extreme Temperatures, etc.
  • Hydrological – eg. Floods, Limnic Eruptions, etc.
  • Meteorological – eg. Wave surges, Storm, Tornado, etc.
  • Biological – Spread of disease in large (eg. Plague, Corona, etc.)

Man-made Disaster

One may feel that the concept of Man-made disaster is not a type of disaster because they might only be aware of natural disasters which were taught to them from the beginning of their life. But there is some man-made disaster which has essential elements of human intent, and error that includes failure of the man-made system, and negligence.

In the famous case of M.C. Mehta v. Union of India (1987 SCR (1) 819; AIR 1987 SC 965), due to the poisonous gases released from the premises of Shriram food and fertilizers Ltd, the majority of people suffering from various types of diseases and court applied the doctrine of absolute liability for the first time in India was an example of Man-made disaster.

Disaster Management: A study of the legal framework in India
Disaster Management: A study of the legal framework in India

Disaster Management Agencies of India

National Disaster Response Force (NDRF)

National Disaster Response Force was created after the Disaster Management Act, of 2005 with the objective of specialized response to natural and man-made disasters. The NDRF also constitutes the members from Central Reserve Police Force, Border Police Force, Central Industrial Security Force, and Indo-Tibetan Border Police.

National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA)

National Disaster Management Authority is the apex body of disaster management in India. It is headed by the Prime Minister of our country and also consists of a Vice-chairperson who must be a Cabinet Minister and eight ministers with the status of minister of state. As per the Disaster Management Act, of 2005, the creation of the National Disaster Management Authority will be for laying down the guidelines, plans, and policies regarding disaster management.

State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMA) also need to be made at the state level which will be headed by the Chief Minister of that respective state.

National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM)

The National Institute of Disaster Management was created to handle the responsibilities of human resources development, training, research, documentation, etc. in the field of disaster management. It also provides technical support to state governments through Disaster Management Centre (DMC) The National Institute was created by the Act of Parliament with a view to being the main institute for capacity development in India and the regions.

NIDM also hosts the SAARC Disaster Management Centre and provides assistance to SAARC Countries.

International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR)

International Strategy for Disaster Reduction was created to perform work including ensuring disaster risk reduction (DRR) in December 1999. UNISDR is the secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. The work of UNISDR includes conducting responses and recovery programs, development policies, and planning, mechanisms and capacities to build resilience to hazards, etc.

Disaster Responses / Relief Stage (Essentials to protect and provide relief to the affected)

The coordinated multi-agencies response is vital to this stage of Disaster Management. It helps to reduce the impact of disaster and its long-term effect with relief activities including

  • Rescue
  • Relocation
  • Providing temporary shelter
  • Repairing services which include Telecommunication and Transport etc.
  • Providing Emergency health care and
  • Providing Food and Shelter etc.

What is Disaster Preparedness?

Knowledge among people of disaster may save lots of money, speed up recovery, and helps people to move on from the effects of the disaster. It includes stock of things like food, clothes, etc., temporary shifting from the area of disaster, etc. Red Cross and Red Crescent societies have established a National society that creates awareness of disaster management through its various programs. National Society also created the ‘Preparedness for Effective Response’ approach which is made up of five phases viz.

  • Orientation
  • Assessment
  • Prioritization and Analysis
  • Work plan and
  • Action and Accountability

Suggestions to improve Disaster Management Program

  • More help should be taken from NGOs for minor tasks like the distribution of food and clothes because it will help the task force to provide relief as early as possible.
  • Government should increase the promotion of volunteering programs conducted for disaster management.
  • Increase in assistance and help from other countries and also provide assistance and help to other countries which are affected by the disaster.


Disaster Management is not only about providing food or clothes to the affected citizens but also includes the task of normalizing the environment and daily life of affected people. The volunteers or task force must ensure that there is no obstacle in way of transport and electricity in the affected area. Repairing Telecommunication services is also essential to look upon during disaster management.

There are some duties that need to be performed by the government such as it is the duty of the state and central government to relief compensation to affected persons which will help them to start their life from a new beginning.