Role of local bodies in disaster management: role, challenges & suggestions

  • Gram Sabhas not only provide a platform to discuss ideas and opinions for grassroots development, but also engages with frontline workers (ASHA, MGNREGA etc.) to understand the problems at hand.
  • During COVID pandemic, Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) played a remarkable role in providing essential leadership to ensure welfare and regulatory functions at ground level with community partnership.
  • For instance, during the nationwide lockdown, PRIs set up containment zones, arranged transport, identified buildings for quarantining people and provisioned food for the incoming migrants.
  • PRIs organized community-based surveillance systems involving village elders, youth and self-help groups (SHGs) to keep a strict vigil in quarantine centers and monitor symptoms in households. Their role in mobilizing citizens for COVID-19 vaccination is also exemplary.
  • PRIs helped in effective implementation of welfare schemes like MGNREGA and the National Rural
  • Livelihood Mission. This quickened pace of recovery while ensuring support to vulnerable
  • Thus, local community is the first line of defence against any disaster. If empowered, they can act as effective first responders.
  • Empowering local communities and local governments can lead to better enforcement of building codes (earthquake resistant structures), riverbed planning (flood resistant) etc.
  • Fifteenth Finance Commission’s Report – Empowering Panchayati Raj Institutions for Disaster
    Preparedness and Management
  • Role of panchayats is crucial in mobilising community participation in an institutionalised manner. Involvement of Panchayats can benefit in following way:
    • Provide a quick response to disaster events – whether natural or man-made.
    • Help in sensitizing people to deal with such disasters.
    • Minimize people’s dependence on state and central government for rescue and relief operations.
  • Panchayats should be made Nodal Agency for relief and rehabilitation to tackle disasters. It will improve planning, coordination and monitoring thereby improving overall relief and rehabilitation interventions.
  • PRIs can play a pro-active role in all stages of disaster management – covering prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, restoration, rehabilitation reconstruction work.
  • Involvement of panchayats will lead to enhanced effectiveness of disaster related activities – rescue operations and arranging temporary shelters; distributing immediate relief in the form of money, food grains, medical care, clothes, tents, vessels, drinking water and other necessities; restoration, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts of damaged villages and towns; crop protection measures and
    livestock management; health and sanitation measures; organizing health camps and so on.
  • State Governments should allocate some reasonable amount out of the allocation made for STATE DISASTER RESPONSE FUND (SDRF) and STATE DISASTER MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY (SDMF) to districts for Panchayats to undertake several risk mitigation activities far more effectively.
    • Financial mechanisms would strengthen a decentralized approach to disaster management.
      Other Recommendations
    • Include disaster management chapters in Panchayat Raj Acts and make disaster planning and spending part of Panchayati Raj development plans and local-level committees. This will ensure citizen-centric mapping and planning of resources.
    • Conducting regular location-specific training programs for the community and organizing platforms for sharing best practices will strengthen individual and institutional capacities. 
    • Community based disaster management plans will help to tap traditional wisdom of local
      communities which will complement modern practices.


  • Allocation of Fund: Although Disaster Management Act provides for District Disaster Response
    Fund and District Disaster Mitigation Fund, allocation and utilization of funds for each panchayat especially for disaster management will be difficult to achieve.
  • Amendment of Disaster Management Act: To make Panchayats Nodal Agency for relief and rehabilitation to tackle disasters in an institutionalized manner, Disaster Management Act needs to be amended.


  • Need to make disaster management a part of Panchayati Raj Act of respective states.
  • Introducing “Disaster Management” in 11th Schedule of the Indian Constitution as part of Article 243G which empowers Panchayats to take initiatives for preparation of plans for economic development and social justice.
  • While preparing draft development plan by District Planning Committee, aspects of natural and man-made disasters must be included as part of plan. For this, there is a need to amend Article 243ZD (3).
  • Disaster management to be made part of Gram Panchayat Development Plan, MGNREGA allowed
    works and relevant training of panchayat officials in disaster management.
  • Disasters generally adversely affect most vulnerable namely women, SCs and STs. It is hence ideal to have these sections of the community involved in the decision making at the pre-disaster phase and post-disaster phases of disaster management.
  • The pre-disaster aspects would comprise prevention, mitigation and preparedness while the post-disaster aspects would involve response, rehabilitation, reconstruction and recovery.
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