Drought in India
SC wants a proactive centre to deal with natural disasters. Pictured: Cracked soil at Manjara Dam is seen in Osmanabad, India, April 17, 2016.Reuters File

Apprised of the prevailing neglect of drought by the many state governments, the Supreme Court on Monday noted neither the states' "ostrich-like attitude" nor the centre's aloofness could help the common man in a situation that is not of their making, reported the Indian Express.

A bench comprising of Justices MB Lokur and NV Ramana cited "lack of will" as the reason behind Bihar, Haryana and Gujarat being "hesitant to even acknowledge, let alone address" a drought by hiding full facts about the existing conditions in those states.

Pulling up the centre for being a mute spectator at these states' inactiveness, the bench listed a slew of proactive measures to be implemented for a situation such as drought.

It chided the centre for not hving either a National Plan or a National Disaster Mitigation Fund even after 10 years of the enforcement of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

Noting that more than 330 million people across 13 of the 29 states in India were affected by drought, the court directed a National Disaster Mitigation Fund to be set up within three months, reported Reuters.

The IE report noted that the bench was aware of the centre's overarching responsibility, and insisted on the use of modern technology for early detection of drought or drought-like situation. It called on the centre to ensure that states to have uniform State Management Plans.

Bihar and Haryana were censured for continued denial of drought and modes of assessment of drought, respectively, while Gujarat took palliative and relief-centric work when the need of the hour is preventive, the court noted. "Risk assessment and risk management gives way, in Gujarat, to crisis management," it said.

The bench also set a deadline of six months for constituting a National Disaster Response Force with its own regular specialist cadre. A need to revise the 2009 contents of the centre's drought management manual was highlighted and a target of December 2016 set for it.

"In the proposed revised and updated manual as well as in the National Plan, the Union of India must provide for the future in terms of prevention, preparedness and mitigation," the bench said.

Reuters reported that a petition filed by NGO Swaraj Abhiyan, which was founded by former members of the Aam Aadmi Party, had complained that the country's methods of declaring drought were "unscientific, archaic and arbitrary". It said as an outcome of this states had consistently failed to recognise drought as a natural disaster.

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