The Supreme Court has pulled up states for their “ostrich-like attitude” on drought, saying they ignored information provided by central agencies and failed to take any preparatory steps to tackle a possible disaster.
Important observations made by the court:
States are not assessing the drought situation in time leading to serious consequences. The adverse or negative impact of a delayed declaration of drought affects the common person, particularly women and children, and postpones the assistance that is needed. It also puts an undue strain on the resources of the State Government and the Government of India.
- The Centre is also to be blamed for taking refuge in the concept of “federalism” to pass the buck to the States for declaring and managing drought and providing only financial aid.
- States such as Bihar, Gujarat and Haryana are not even willing to acknowledge, leave alone address a drought. Such an ostrich-like attitude is a pity and the sound of silence coming from these states is subjects the vulnerable to further distress. The failure to declare drought by these States has robbed the poor of their fundamental right to dignity of life.
- A drought definitely falls under the definition of ‘disaster’ under Section 2(d) of the Disaster Management Act of 2005. But, governments have not even tried to enforce the statute.
These observations were made by the court based on a PIL plea that alleged that parts of 12 States such as Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Haryana and Chhattisgarh were hit by drought and the authorities were not providing adequate relief. The court found that the total population in the districts affected by drought is about 33 crore.
The court asked the government to:
- Establish a National Disaster Response Force with specialist cadre in six months.
- Set up a Disaster Mitigation Fund within three months.
- Frame National Plan on risk assessment, risk management and crisis management in respect of a disaster.
- Update 60-year-old Drought Management Manual keeping in mind “humanitarian factors” like migrations, suicides, extreme distress, the plight of women and children.