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West Bengal Disaster Management Department Profile

History of Department of Disaster Management: Learning through experience has taught mankind to evolve systems of irrigation, animal husbandry, distress relief, self defence, etc. Distress relief is inbuilt within person. Hence Kings and emperors lost no time during the ancient and medieval periods of the Indian history to strive for ameliorating the lots of their subjects suffering from want of food. There are references galore to show that rulers in all times till the advent of the British Rule, left no stone unturned to provide relief to the famine – stricken people of their kingdom. But whether the rulers of those periods did ever institute any commission for enquiring into the causes of famine and prepare any contingency plan for distress relief is not known. The Britishers, to cover up lapses of their bad governance, constituted four famine commissions and one Irrigation Commission between 1866 and 1900. A Famine Code was devised in 1883. The Bengal Famine Code was prepared in 1913 and the Bengal Famine Manual in 1941 in which steps were codified to provide relief from famine to keep the body and soil together of the natives. After independence, with democratic governments at the State and Central levels, relief become one of the main agenda of good governance. Initially, relief was a subject of the Department of Food, Relief and Supplies in West Bengal. This Department published one manual titled Relief of Distress in 1953 superseding the Bengal Famine Code, 1913 and the Bengal Famine Manual, 1941 for administration of relief conforming to the plans and policies of a welfare State. The importance attached by the State Government on rescue, relief and rehabilitation matters will be inferred from the fact that a full-fledged Department of Relief was formed in 1992. Disaster related thoughts have undergone a thorough change all over world. Meanwhile there has been a paradigm shift from relief centric approach to a comprehensive disaster management approach. The central government has promulgated the “Disaster Management Act, 2005” and keeping with the change the department was rechristened as the Department of Disaster Management in 2006.

Departmental set-up has been created in all the Districts, Sub-Division and Blocks of the state. West Bengal is the only state in the country where this departmental structure exists in all tiers of the administration. The department works under the leadership of the Block Dev. Officer in the blocks, Sub-Divisional officer in the Sub-Division and the District Magistrate in the Districts. The major activities of the department includes pre-disaster preparation for relief and rehabilitation, storing of tarpaulins, clothing and other relief articles, construction of multi-purpose shelter for the community in the flood and cyclone-prone areas, providing one time grant for economic rehabilitation of the people in BPL list under different schemes either under small trade or sewing machine, distributing wheat to the destitute and poorest persons throughout the year.

At present the activities of the department has spread to wider areas. Under the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) programme, disaster risk mapping and preparedness, vulnerability mapping, providing practical ideas to reduce disaster risk in development planning, capacity building of the vulnerable communities through continuous training are some of the important activities that the department undertakes

Aim
The aim of the West Bengal State Disaster Management Department is to establish necessary systems, structures, programs, resources, capabilities and guiding principles for reducing disaster risks and preparing for and responding to disasters and threats of disasters in the State of West Bengal in order to save lives and property, avoid disruption of economic activity and damage to environment and to ensure the continuity and sustainability of development.

Objectives
  • To assess the risks and vulnerabilities associated with various disasters,
  • To develop appropriate disaster prevention and mitigation strategies,
  • To provide clarity on roles and responsibilities for all stakeholders concerned with disaster management so that disasters can be managed more effectively,
  • To develop and maintain arrangements for accessing resources, equipment, supplies and funding in preparation for disasters that might occur,
  • To ensure that arrangements are in place to mobilize the resources and capability for relief, rehabilitation, reconstruction and recovery from disasters,
  • To create awareness and preparedness and provide advice and training to the agencies involved in disaster management and to the community,
  • To strengthen the capacities of the community and establish and maintain effective systems for responding to disasters,
  • To ensure co-ordination with agencies related to disaster management in other Indian States and those at the national and international level,
  • To ensure relief assistance to the affected without any discrimination of caste, creed, community or religious
  • To establish and maintain a proactive programme of risk reduction, this programme being implemented through existing sectoral development programmes and being part of the overall development process in the state,
  • To develop and implement programmes for risk sharing and risk transfer for all types of disasters
  • To address gender issues in disaster management with special thrust on empowerment of women towards long term disaster mitigation,
  • To develop disaster management as distinct management discipline and creation of a systematic and streamlined disaster management cadre.
Contents Provided by the Disaster Management Department,Government of West Bengal
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