Odisha makes the participation of panchayat members in disaster management compulsory

: The government of Odisha issued an ordinance making it compulsory for representatives of the Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) to participate in disaster management activities.

The Odisha Panchayat Laws (Amendment) Order 2021 aims to amend the Odisha Gram Panchayat Law of 1964, the Odisha Panchayat Samiti Law of 1959 and the Odisha Zilla Parshad Law, 1991.

Until now, PRI members have been governed by executive instructions during disasters.

The clause – the provisions of the 2005 Disaster Management Act, preparation of the disaster management plan at village and Grama Panchayat level, integration with the development plan, capacity building of stakeholders, implementation and facilitation of relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction activities in disaster areas in accordance with the state plan and district plan, and to take other measures that may be necessary for disaster management – has been inserted under the article 44 of the OGP law of 1964.

The section talks about the mandatory functions of elected members of the gram panchayat such as building, repairing and maintaining public roads, removing encroachments on public streets and maintaining other public infrastructure such as facilities drinking water and drains.

“Elected members of the panchayat used to participate by executive instructions issued by the government from time to time. Now they are legally an integral part of the disaster management plan at the village level, ”said Ashok Kumar Meena, principal secretary of the State Panchayati Raj and the Department of Drinking Water.

Cyclone prone condition

Between 1891 and 2021, more than 100 tropical cyclones hit Odisha, making it one of the most cyclone-prone Indian states. In the past 20 years, the state has been hit by 10 cyclones.

According to the state government, India’s east coast is one of the six most cyclone-prone areas in the world. The impact of cyclones is relatively high and devastating, especially when they hit the coasts bordering the northern Bay of Bengal. Although the Odisha coastline accounts for around 17% of India’s east coast, it has received almost 35% of all severe cyclonic and cyclonic storms that have crossed the east coast and associated storm surges. Odisha has suffered loss of life and property worth 33,000 crore over the past two decades.

Odisha has a network of more than 870 cyclone and flood shelters that can accommodate 1,000 people each. Over 450 cyclone shelters are maintained by young people under the active supervision of PRI members. The role of PRI members takes on added importance during the evacuation, relief and rehabilitation process.

Another major amendment to the existing laws governing PRI members in Odisha states that “a candidate who himself or through his nominator, with the intention of being elected in an election, gives false information that he knows or has reason to believe to be false or withholds information in his nomination paper or in his affidavit to be issued under subparagraph (w) of paragraph (I) is punishable by ‘Imprisonment of up to six months, or a fine, or both.

Previously, the clause in the OGP law of 1964 spoke of the disqualification of elected members, while there was no possibility of sanction for a false affidavit. Elections for the gram panchayats and Odisha civic bodies will take place early next year.

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