- By applying an unusual provision in the Disaster Management Act, 2005, the Central Govt now allows any institution or individual to directly contribute to the NDRF funds.
- The Ministry of Home Affairs said the changes made under Section 46(1)(b) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 will now allow any kind of direct grant to the NDRF Funds for the purpose of disaster management.
- These donations can be done online or through physical methods(drawn in favour of “PAO (Secretariat), MHA” at New Delhi.
- The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had invoked the Disaster Management Act, 2005 for the first time in March this year in wake of COVID-19.
SDRF to be used
- The pandemic caused by COVID-19 was notified as a “disaster,” in March, 2019.
- This opened the doors of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) for treatment of patients and other logistics such as quarantine centres, setting up laboratories etc.
- The other notified disasters are cyclone, drought, earthquake, fire, flood, tsunami, hailstorm, landslide, avalanche, cloudburst, pest attack, frost and cold waves.
- The NDRF which is maintained under the accounting head of the Union Finance Ministry, has been allocated ?22,070 crore in the financial year 2020-21, up from ?17,210 crore in the 2019-20 fiscal.
NDRF supplements SDRF
- As mentioned in the Section 46 of the Disaster Management Act, the “NDRF supplements the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) in case of a disaster of severe nature, provided adequate funds are not available in the SDRF.”
- Once allocated the SDRF needs to submit the utilisation certificate for any next allocations.
- The Centre contributes 75% of the SDRF funds for general category States and Union Territories, and 90% for special category States (northeast States, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu & Kashmir).
2. Why is India out of the Chabahar rail project?
- The track-laying project from Iran’s Chabahar port to Zahedan on the border with Afghanistan inaugurated on July 7, has ensured that Chabahar is once again in the doldrums.
- This port project has been a part of discussions between New Delhi and Tehran since their first agreement to develop it, in 2003.
- Over the years, the Chabahar project has grown, and now envisages a port, a free trade zone, the 628-km railway line to Zahedan, and then the little over 1,000-km track to Sarakhs on the border with Turkmenistan.
What ties India to Chabahar?
- The Chabahar project is ambitious and will cost well above any average rail project of the same length.
- But New Delhi sees its strategic benefits above the costs.
- A major trade and connectivity hub on Iran’s coast not only gives India an alternative route to Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan, but also has the potential to provide an Indian strategic counter to Pakistan’s Gwadar port being developed by China right next door to Chabahar.
- The Chabahar trade zone will help India in energy imports and food and material exports coming from Kandla and Mundra ports.
- The ambitious rail project has multiple benefits as it will allow India an independent corridor not only to Afghanistan but also to Central Asia and Russia someday.
A later date for India
- In the meanwhile, Iranian Railway authorities have begun laying tracks.
- In the absence of an active Indian engagement and partnership, it is currently under construction by Iranian funding and engineering capacities.
- Both New Delhi and Tehran have left the door open for IRCON to return to the project at a later date, but for the moment, India is not a part of the railway construction.
Has India lost an opportunity?
- India’s stakes in Chabahar remain strong, and no matter who builds the railway line, Indian trade could still find its way to Afghanistan and Central Asia.
- India’s monetary losses are minimal, as it had not invested money or material on the rail line yet. However, there is the worry of reputational damage from the idea that India gave in to U.S. sanctions, a departure from the past.
- The largest worry is that Chabahar, the enduring symbol of India-Iran friendship, could become collateral damage in a larger proxy war between the U.S. and China.