Supreme Court: The bench of Madan B. Lokur and N.V. Ramana, JJ came down heavily upon the States of Bihar, Gujarat and Haryana for showing an ostrich-like attitude when these States are facing drought-like situations or drought and the persons belonging to most vulnerable section of the society are the most affected ones.
Considering the sorry state of affairs, the Court gave the following directions:
- Union of India directed to constitute a National Disaster Response Force within a period of six months with an appropriate and regular cadre strength and also to establish a National Disaster Mitigation Fund within a period of three months from the date of the order.
- Union of India directed to formulate a National Plan for risk assessment, risk management and crisis management in respect of a disaster in terms of Section 11 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 at the very earliest and with immediate concern.
- The Drought Management Manual published in 2009 to be revised on or before 31.12.2016.
- Secretary in the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, Ministry of Agriculture in the Government of India is directed to urgently hold a meeting within a week with the Chief Secretary of Bihar, Gujarat and Haryana to review the apparent drought situation with all the available data and if so advised persuade the State Government to declare a drought in whichever district, taluka, tehsil or block is necessary.
The Court held that in the proposed revised and updated Manual as well as in the National Plan, the Union of India must provide for the future in terms of prevention, preparedness and mitigation. Innovative methods of water conservation, saving and utilization (including ground water) should be seriously considered and the experts in the field should be associated in the exercise. Also, The Government of India must insist on the use of modern technology to make an early determination of a drought or a drought-like situation.
The Court, stating that Availability of adequate food grains and water is certainly of utmost importance but they are not the only factors required to be taken note of, said that humanitarian factors such as migrations from affected areas, suicides, extreme distress, the plight of women and children are some of the factors that ought to be kept in mind by State Governments in matters pertaining to drought and the Government of India in updating and revising the Manual. [Swaraj Abhiyan -(I) v. Union of India, WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 857 OF 2015, decided on 11.06.2015]