Jharkhand's Disaster Management Seems to be in Shambles Featured

Ranchi, Feb. 24: District wings of a department that is supposed to tackle both natural calamities and manmade exigencies are suffering from an existential crisis; some perhaps have even ceased to exist.

The disaster management unit in Ranchi is non-functional nowadays because the district disaster management officer (DDMO) Mr. Ashok Kumar Sharma went on leave a month ago, frustrated over non-payment of salary and lack of clarity about his role. In East Singhbhum, DDMO Mr. Pankaj Kumar, too, has proceeded on a 10-day leave, citing personal reasons.

A couple of years ago, the state disaster management department had tied up with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to harness experienced manpower. Of the 24 districts, the state managed to field disaster management officers for only a dozen places, including Ranchi, Jamshedpur (East Singhbhum), Hazaribagh, Dhanbad, Bokaro and Deoghar.

However, if sources are to be believed, the one-year contract period for most of these DDMOs ended in October-November last year and there has been no further word from the government about extensions.

According to Mr. Pankaj Kumar, "Honestly speaking, I don't know if I am still working as the DDMO because I haven't received my salary since October. Officially, my contract expired in November 2016. But, despite informing the headquarters, I haven't received any communiqué. I had left a plum job in Bihar to join the post in Jharkhand. I had a lot of hope, but am repenting now. Forget about salary, there is no clarification if my contract will be extended. I am scouting for a new job."

"Somebody must tell us whether we should continue or not. Everything is vague to the point of being frustrating," added Ranchi DDMO Mr. Sharma. He had last received his salary in October 2016 and his term expired a month later.

Another DDMO not willing to be identified, was more vocal. He said Jharkhand's sincerity about disaster management was observed only when disaster struck and made headlines. "I knew it would be challenging to function in a state where there is lack of timely funds for disaster mitigation plans or for something as basic as commuting logistics. Still I came hoping to help. But now, both my presence and position seems baseless. I have visited our headquarters several times, seeking clarity on my role, but in vain. My salary is due for two months," said he.

Bhagwan Das, special secretary (home) who exercises jurisdiction over the disaster management wing, conceded that majority of DDMO contracts expired last year. According to him, "A file in this regard had been sent from my office for approval. It needs to be tabled before the cabinet. Let's see when the cabinet co-ordination committee places the file."

Information Source: The Telegraph

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