Nothing called national calamity, says Centre

Nothing called national calamity, says Centre

 Amid raising demand to declare Uttarakhand’s tragedy a national calamity, the government on Sunday made it clear that nothing known as national calamity exists in the Centre’s lexicon anymore.

“The Centre can instead designate a situation as a severe calamity on case-to-case basis. Uttarakhand, of course, falls in that definition,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari told Deccan Herald.

Vociferous demands have been made from the opposition BJP and also from former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati to declare the Uttarakhand tragedy national calamity.

The term national calamity was replaced by national disaster when the Centre created a fund in 2007. In that year the National Calamity Contingency Fund was renamed as National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF). Similarly in states, there is State Disaster Response Fund to take care of tragedies like the one ravaged Uttarakhand in the past week. However, when the state fund is not able to cope with the problem, the NDRF kicks in.

There is protocol laid down whereby a central committee visits the disaster-ravaged state, makes an assessment of the damage and reports back to a high level central panel, the report is then considered by a ministerial panel.

However, Tewari, said that in case of Uttarakhand even these procedures were overridden after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi made an aerial survey of the flood-ravaged areas and the prime minister subsequently released Rs 145 crore to the hill state immediately to fight with the worst ever deluge in recent history. “Therefore, the classification has been erased. We have over-ridden it, we have surmounted it. The term national calamity is basically an academic debate,” Tewari said.

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