Disaster Management Act, 2005: Are we prepared?

If someone is not worried about the Covid-19 Pandemic then they’re either living on an island or in space. The Covid-19 (or simply Novel Coronavirus) is a new virus that is bugging humanity since the past four months which started in a small (not so small anymore) market in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Who would have thought a Bat-soup would cause so much trouble that it will shut down entire cities, affect the world economy, reduce crude oil prices and also reduce pollution, well at least some good came out of it? After the virus hit other countries different models and strategies to tackle the virus started coming up which all seem to partially work out in the long run. India was among the countries who announced a lockdown in the early stages. The National Disaster Management Authority or NMDA issued some guidelines regarding the virus for the general mass. The NDMA is an authority which is established under Section 3 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005. The world is constantly changing an evolving for good but at the same time nature reacts to it differently and before we know it, we are tackling a new problem one after the other. This isn’t the first time that we’re dealing with a virus of such kind, the world is familiar with many such as The Black Death, The London Plague, The Spanish Flu, Ebola Virus, Swine Flu, etc. and now the Coronavirus. They have been responsible for so many uncountable deaths in the past, which begs the question that, are we prepared? Are we prepared to deal with it or are we just at the mercy of nature?
What is Disaster Management Act, 2005 about?
The Disaster Management Act or the DMA is an act that was established in 2005 for tackling disasters that are either natural or man-made. Until now, the DMA has worked in tackling problems such as floods, earthquakes, etc. this is the first time the Act has been entrusted to tackle a matter of public health which has such a high severity. According to Section 2(e), “disaster management” means a continuous and integrated process of planning, organising, coordinating and implementing measures which are necessary or expedient for— (i) prevention of danger or threat of any disaster; (ii) mitigation or reduction of risk of any disaster or its severity or consequences; (iii) capacity-building; (iv) preparedness to deal with any disaster; (v) prompt response to any threatening disaster situation or disaster; (vi) assessing the severity or magnitude of effects of any disaster; (vii) evacuation, rescue and relief; (viii) rehabilitation and reconstruction2. The objective of the act can be inferred from the sub-points given in the above section.

Are we prepared?
There used to be a time when the disasters we were most worried about was a Nuclear War or a catastrophic event that we all assumed would happen in 2012. If anything, that is going to kill over 10 million people in the next few decades it is going to be a highly infectious virus and not a war3. We are so engrossed in improving our instruments of warfare that we do not consider a flu-virus as a threat at all. A health emergency also deserves the same seriousness as other disasters. On a careful observation it can be found that the DMA is not completely ideal when it comes to tackling a health emergency such as this. The DMA has helped in controlling movement and issuing guidelines which are being followed religiously. To keep people in check the DMA also has punishments for rule-breakers (Section 514), people who spread false rumors (Section 545) and those who are taking an unfair advantage of the money or materials provided in relief (Section 536) with imprisonment or fine or both. The DMA is doing everything within its limits and powers to tackle the situation and as of now it is also working, but it still does not answer the question, Are we prepared? If we concentrate on the exact meaning of the word “prepared” it means “ready to deal with a situation”7. In this situation, we can deduce that it means having all the necessary protocols and infrastructure that is necessary to tackle this efficiently. Unfortunately, India as well as other countries in the world lack such preparedness when it comes to health emergencies specifically. In India we have the Epidemics Disease Act, 1897 but it is vague, ancient and does not talk about specific methods to tackle any such emergency, the size of this act itself shows the competency of the act towards health emergencies in India. The Covid-19 pandemic is not the only health emergency that has haunted India and also the world in recent times. All of them have been learning experiences to all of us, similarly the Covid-19 pandemic will also be a learning experience. Covid-19 has shown the true colors of human evolution when it comes to technology. No matter how much we develop there is always a chance that all of it will be pointless and nature will always find a way to emerge stronger. All of this may seem dystopian if we ponder on it but all is not lost, there is always room for change.

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