The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) is a specialized force combined “for the purpose of specialist response to a threatening disaster situation or disaster” under the Disaster Management Act, 2005. Section 44–45 The “Apex Body for Disaster Management” in the country is the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). The Chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority is the Prime Minister.
The Disaster Management Act has statutory provisions for the constitution of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) with the goal of specialized response to natural and man-made disasters. Accordingly, in 2006 NDRF was combined with 8 Battalions. At present, NDRF has the strength of 12 Battalions with each Battalion consisting of 1149 personnel. At commence, the personnel of NDRF was deployed for routine law and order duties also. In a meeting of the NDMA with the Prime Minister on October 25, 2007, the need of NDRF being made a dedicated force was highlighted and accepted. This led to the notification of NDRF Rules on February 14th, 2008, making NDRF a dedicated force for disaster response related duties, under the unified command of DG NDRF.
The practice of “proactive availability” of this Force to the States and that of “pre-positioning”, in threatening disaster situations have immensely helped minimize damage, caused due to natural calamities in the country. The first major test of disaster for NDRF was Kosi Floods in 2008. NDRF resources were moved to Bihar immediately after the breach in Kosi barrage on 19th August 2008. The situation was handled by the NDRF on a war footing, by airlifting 153 high-speed motorized boats with 780 flood rescue trained personnel drawn from three different Battalions and sent to the five flood-affected districts with utmost promptitude. As a result, over 1,00,000 affected people were rescued during the initial stage itself. The prompt and timely response of NDRF was appreciated by the then Chief Minister of Bihar.
The aim of the National Disaster Management Authority is to build a safer and disaster resilient India by developing a holistic, proactive, multi-disaster and technology driven strategy for disaster management. This has to be achieved through a culture of prevention, mitigation, and preparedness to generate a prompt and efficient response at the time of disasters. This national vision inter alia aims at inculcating a culture of preparedness among all stakeholders.
NDRF has proved its importance in achieving this vision by highly skilled rescue and relief operations, regular and intensive training and re-training, familiarisation exercises within the area of responsibility of respective NDRF Bns, carrying out mock drills and joint exercises with the various stakeholders.
In the future, the key to effective disaster response will depend primarily on the effectiveness of the training and re-training of Specialised Disaster Response Forces. With this vision, a detailed “Training Regime for Disaster Response” has been prepared by NDMA/NDRF identifying the specific disaster response training courses and devising a unified, structured and uniform course module as well as a syllabus for these training courses. The proposition behind a unified, structured, uniform course module and syllabus is that first the entire NDRF battalions will successfully attain these courses and subsequently the State Disaster Response Forces (SDRF) and other stakeholders will be trained on the same lines. The need for a uniformly structured course module emerged from the fact that if all the NDRF battalions and other ‘first responders’ undergo the same training exercise, the coordination between different stakeholders would be expedient and well planned at the time of any major disaster where different NDRF battalions, SDRF battalions, and other stakeholders will be working together in close coordination with each other.