National Disaster Management Act, 2005

The Disaster Management Act, 2005 is in news these days yet again. The Act was enacted in the country on 26th December, 2005. It came into effect in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, when the country lost thousands of lives. It was passed by the government for efficient management of disasters, including preparation of mitigation strategies, capacity-building and related matters.

Prime Minister serves as the head of the National Disaster Management Authority, the nodal agency which holds the mandate to lay down policies for disaster management. With the western and eastern coasts of the country facing two major cyclonic storms over the last 10 days, PM Modi in his recent address of Mann KI Baat, had acknowledged the efforts of the rescue team which are part of the governing bodies established under the Disaster Management Act.

  • The Act aims to manage disasters, including preparation of mitigation strategies, capacity-building and a lot more.
  • The Act also designates the Ministry of Home Affairs as the nodal ministry responsible for looking after the overall national disaster management in the country.
  • The Act also contains provisions for financial mechanisms including creation of funds for emergency response like the National Disaster Response Fund.
  • The National Disaster Management Authority or NDMA:
    • It is the nodal central body for disaster management coordination, with the Prime Minister as its Chairperson. It is responsible for framing the policies, plans and guidelines for disaster management to ensure an effective & strong response during any disaster.
  • Second is the National Executive Committee or NEC which assists NDMA & prepares National Disaster Management Plan for the whole country.
  • On the state and district level, we have SDMA & NDMA responsible for drawing the disaster plan for states & districts respectively.
  • Then, there is NDRF or National Disaster Response Force which directly responds to a threatening disasters and calamities. The NDRF has been playing a major role in rescuing people from disasters for years.
  • Section 6: It gives NDMA the powers to prepare national plans for disaster management. It also ensures the implementation of the plan through the state disaster management authorities.
  • Section 10: It allows the NEC to give directions to governments regarding measures to be taken by them.
  • Section 33: It says that the District Authority may order any officer or any Department at the district level or any local authority to take such measures for the prevention or mitigation of disaster. Such officer or department shall be bound to carry out such order.
  • Penal Provisions: Moreover, sections 51 to 60 of the Act lay down penalties for specific offenses. Anyone found obstructing any officer or employee from performing their duty will be imprisoned. The term of the punishment may extend to one year or fined, or be both.
  • Further, if such an act of obstruction leads to loss of lives or imminent danger, then the person can be jailed for up to two years
  • The DM Act immensely empowers the NDMA and the central government. So much so that regardless of any law in effect, the Central Govt can issue instructions to any authority anywhere in India to assist and contribute in disaster management. Failure to follow such directions leads to violation of the act.
  • The Act comprises 79 sections and 11 chapters. And Chapter 10 of the Act deals with ‘Offences and Penalties’.
  • Under Section 51, anyone refusing or failing to follow orders is liable for punishment with imprisonment up to one year, or fine, or both.
  • Article 52 guarantees imprisonment for almost two years and a fine on any person making false claims to gain relief benefits. Article 54 enforces imprisonment of one year or a fine on anyone circulating false alarms about the severity of a disaster.
  • These two articles of the act, i.e. Article 52 and 54 have gained importance in the recent times. This is because, lately, a lot of news and updates about COVID have been flooding social media platforms which fail to check the credibility of the news.

Though the Act came into effect 16 years ago, it got popular and made headlines with the onset of COVID-19 and PM Modi’s call for a nationwide lockdown last year in May 2020. The lockdown was imposed under the same Disaster Management Act, 2005.

The Government of India (GOI), in recognition of the importance of Disaster Management as a national priority, has set up a High-Powered Committee (HPC) in August 1999 and also a nation committee after the Gujarat earthquake, for making recommendations on the preparation of Disaster Management plans and suggestion effective mitigation mechanisms. The Tenth Five-Year Plan Document also had, for the first time, a detailed chapter on Disaster Management. Similarly, the Twelfth Finance Commission was also mandated to review the financial arrangements for Disaster Management.

On 23 December 2005, the Government of India enacted the Disaster Management Act, which envisaged the creation of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), headed by the Prime Minister, and State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs) headed by respective Chief Ministers, to spearhead and implement a holistic and integrated approach to Disaster Management in India.

NDMA Vision

“To build a safer and disaster resilient India by a holistic, pro-active, technology driven and sustainable development strategy that involves all stakeholders and fosters a culture of prevention, preparedness and mitigation.”


Functions and Responsibilities

NDMA, as the apex body, is mandated to lay down the policies, plans and guidelines for Disaster Management to ensure timely and effective response to disasters. Towards this, it has the following responsibilities:-

  • Lay down policies on disaster management
  • Approve the National Plan
  • Approve plans prepared by the Ministries or Departments of the Government of India in accordance with the National Plan
  • Lay down guidelines to be followed by the State Authorities in drawing up the State Plan
  • Lay down guidelines to be followed by the different Ministries or Departments of the Government of India for the Purpose of integrating the measures for prevention of disaster or the mitigation of its effects in their development plans and projects
  • Coordinate the enforcement and implementation of the policy and plans for disaster management
  • Recommend provision of funds for the purpose of mitigation
  • Provide such support to other countries affected by major disasters as may be determined by the Central Government
  • Take such other measures for the prevention of disaster, or the mitigation, or preparedness and capacity building for dealing with threatening disaster situations or disasters as it may consider necessary
  • Lay down broad policies and guidelines for the functioning of the National Institute of Disaster Management.