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Himachal disaster: Seeking Central aid, NGOs ask Modi to reevaluate development model

Counterview Desk 

Asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to urgently declare the ongoing emergency situation in Himachal Pradesh as a national disaster / calamity of rare severity and provision for Central level assistance to the State, several NGOs and concerned citizens have said that heavy rainfall, floods and landslides has forced the State to struggle to mitigate the situation “without the required support from the Central government”.
Stating that the delay in Central aid is unfair for long term rehabilitation for a large number of families already displaced, their statement says, the State has insufficient funds to provide quick relief and rehabilitation of the people. At the same time, it adds, there should be “long-term thorough re-evaluation of development projects and policies in the Himalayan region” which are said to be reason behind the disaster.


We, the undersigned Civil Society Organisations and affected people's organizations of Himachal Pradesh, urgently bring to your attention the grave and distressing situation currently unfolding in our state. We implore you to consider the immediate declaration of this situation as a "National Disaster / Calamity of Rare Severity" under the provisions of the Disaster Management Act of 2005. We base this request on the following critical points:
The Disaster Management Act 2005 defines a disaster as encompassing substantial loss of life, human suffering, damage to property, or degradation of the environment. The current situation meets all these conditions. (Presently, there exists no specific legal or executive criteria that allows for the declaration of a natural calamity as a national disaster. This was also noted in the Standing Committee report to the Department of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation). Nonetheless, the 10th Finance Commission after examining a similar proposal left the definition of "calamity of rare severity" open for case-by-case evaluation.
The State of Himachal Pradesh is currently grappling with an unprecedented disaster scenario. For the past one month, more than half of the population has been living under constant life threats due to heavy rainfall, floods, and landslides. The floods across Beas valley were the starting point of this large-scale disaster now unfolding across several districts of the state. Thousands of buildings have been destroyed partially or completely, hundreds of lives have been lost, and thousands of families have been forced to abandon their homes, seeking refuge in temporary shelters or with relatives. 
The situation is dire, with approximately 2000 roads severely damaged, and both government and private property suffering significant losses. Preliminary estimates suggest that the state is facing a staggering loss of more than Rs 10,000 crore, which is unprecedented. In the face of this calamity of rare severity, the state of Himachal Pradesh is struggling to mitigate the situation without the required support from the Central Government, which might lead to delay in instant aid and unfairness in long term rehabilitation for a large number of families. In this scenario SDRF funds would not be sufficient to provide quick relief and rehabilitation for people of our state.
Taking cues from the stance of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which released only a meagre funds to assist various states affected by floods, landslide and cloudburst disaster during 2022, we believe that the intensity and magnitude of disasters in Himachal have far surpassed the State Government’s capacity; and that funds for relief and rehabilitation in the current situation at SDRF level are nearly 5% of the total loss thus there is urgent need to transfer 100% funds (Rs. 10000 crore) of total damaged assessed by the state government directly from the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) immediately, and if required from the National Calamity Contingency Fund (NCCF), which would be more appropriate and urgently needed in this grave hour.
Therefore, we strongly request
i) Immediate and adequate assistance, both in terms of funds and other resources, from the Central Government to support the State's efforts in recovery and reconstruction in the aftermath of this catastrophe
ii) Assistance to the state for a full and complete assessment of public, commons and private loss and damages and issue directions for rehabilitation of impacted communities with priority to those who have been rendered landless and shelter less.
iii) To immediately give appropriate directions to concerns that, disaster risk assessment is mandatory for all developmental activities based on Disaster Risk Zonation Maps made by the SDMA.
iv) Long-term thorough re-evaluation of development projects and policies in the Himalayan region as serious lessons to be taken for future activities. From the perspective of Himalayan communities, this approach can help emphasize the critical nature of the current developmental challenges in Himachal Pradesh and advocate for a more resilient and sustainable path forward.
We earnestly hope that you will consider our urgent request and take the necessary measures to alleviate the ongoing crisis in our beautiful state.
Click here for signatories 



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