CAG had pointed out loopholes

Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde could have avoided cutting a sorry figure during his visit on Saturday to flood-hit Uttarakhand to oversee rescue operations, had the Centre plugged the glaring loopholes in disaster management, as pointed out by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its latest report.

Shinde admitted that “lack of coordination” was hampering relief operation in Uttarakhand, which witnessed the first-of-its-kind floods that took more than 500 lives and left hundreds of others injured, besides countless missing.

The CAG’s performance audit report on “Disaster Preparedness in India”, tabled in Parliament in April, sees through the tall claims of the Centre, especially as disaster management comes under the Union home ministry.

The hilly state, which was carved out of the Uttar Pradesh, fared badly in the CAG report that dedicated a portion on preparedness of states to handle disasters.

Though the Uttarakhand Chief Minister-headed state disaster management authority was set up in 2007, no rules and regulations were formulated to ensure that it stands on its feet. Similarly, a state executive committee was set up in January, 2008, but it never met since inception.

The state, due to its complex terrain and high tectonic activity, is prone to hazards like earthquakes, landslides, cloudbursts and flash floods, apart from experiencing forest fire.
“The state authorities were virtually non-functional,” the CAG had said, pointing out that another arm, the Disaster Mitigation and Management Centre, had met only twice since its inception, and that too in 2011.

No plan has been prepared by the state for an early warning system, the auditor had said. The communication system was inadequate, which would result in delayed information to vulnerable population, it had pointed out.

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