Karnataka moves the Supreme Court over NDRF funds for drought management

  • The Karnataka government has filed a Supreme Court petition against the Union government, requesting that drought relief monies be released from the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF).
  • This is the second big controversy, following allegations of ‘injustice’ in tax devolution and other allocations. 

Extent of Drought and Water Scarcity in Karnataka

  • Karnataka’s drought and water scarcity have worsened due to severe rainfall deficits during the past monsoon season, negatively impacting agricultural productivity.
  • Drought conditions: Karnataka is experiencing widespread drought, with 223 out of 236 taluks (mandals) designated as drought-hit areas, resulting in significant crop loss.
  • Compensation Sought: The state has requested hefty financial help from the Centre, totaling Rs 18,171 crores, to address drought-related damages.

What is the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF)?

  • The NDRF is a statutory agency established under the Disaster Management Act of 2005.
  • It complements a state’s State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) in the event of a major disaster, as long as appropriate money are not available in the SDRF.
  • According to the July 2015 rules, natural calamities such as cyclones, droughts, earthquakes, fires, floods, tsunamis, hailstorms, landslides, avalanches, cloud bursts, pest attacks, cold waves, and frosts will be eligible for rapid relief aid from NDRF.
  • The NDRF is administered in the “Public Accounts” under “Reserve Funds Not Bearing Interest”.
  • The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) audits the NDRF’s accounts. 

Disaster Relief for Indian States

  • The 2005 Disaster Management Act provides no definition of catastrophes.
  • It can refer to any occurrence that occurs due to natural or man-made causes and significantly disrupts people’s lives, exceeding their ability to cope.
  • The 15th Finance Commission developed a new approach for state-specific allocations that took into account characteristics such as historical expenditure, risk exposure, hazard, and vulnerability.

Institutional Mechanism: 

  • States have State Disaster Relief Funds (SDRF).
  • The Centre contributes 75% of the cash (90% for Himalayan and Northeastern states), while the states contribute the remaining.
  • The overall amount is determined as part of the financial allocations and disbursed monthly by the Centre.

In case a state needs the Centre’s assistance, it must follow a procedure:

  1. The degree of the harm should be detailed in a memorandum and submitted.
  2. If this is acknowledged by the Centre, an Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT) performs on-site inspections to examine the damage.
  3. A National Executive Team reviews the IMCT report.
  4. Based on its recommendations, a High Level Committee will approve the immediate distribution of NDRF relief funds. 

Furthermore, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs monitors the use of NDRF releases.


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