The Centre has released Rs 8,873.6 crore to states as the first instalment of the central share of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) for 2021-22 for various COVID-19 containment measures, including setting up of hospitals and oxygen generation.
As a special dispensation, the department of expenditure, under the ministry of finance, has released the amount in advance of the normal schedule at its recommendation.
Normally, the first instalment of the SDRF is released in June according to the recommendations of the Finance Commission.
However, in relaxation of the normal procedure, not only has the release of the SDRF been advanced but the amount has also been released without waiting for the utilisation certificate of the amount provided to the states in the last financial year.
Up to 50 per cent of the amount released (Rs 4,436.8 crore) can be used by the states for COVID-19 containment measures.
The funds from the SDRF may be used by the states for various measures related to the containment of COVID-19, including meeting the cost of oxygen generation and storage plants in hospitals, ventilators, air purifiers, strengthening ambulance services, COVID-19 hospitals, COVID care centres, consumables, thermal scanners, personal protective equipment, testing laboratories, testing kits, containment zone, etc.
State Disaster Response Fund
The State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF), constituted under Section 48(1)(a) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, is the primary fund available with state governments for responses to notified disasters.
The central government contributes 75 per cent of SDRF allocation for general category states/UTs and 90 per cent for special category states/UTs (northeast states, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir).
The annual central contribution is released in two equal instalments as per the recommendation of the Finance Commission. SDRF shall be used only for meeting the expenditure for providing immediate relief to the victims.
Disasters covered under SDRF: Cyclone, drought, earthquake, fire, flood, tsunami, hailstorm, landslide, avalanche, cloudburst, pest attack, frost and cold waves.
Local disaster: A state government may use up to 10 percent of the funds available under the SDRF for providing immediate relief to the victims of natural disasters that they consider to be ‘disasters’ within the local context in the state and which are not included in the notified list of disasters of the ministry of home affairs subject to the condition that the state government has listed the state specific natural disasters and notified clear and transparent norms and guidelines for such disasters with the approval of the State Authority — the State Executive Authority (SEC).
The NDRF supplements SDRF of a state, in case of a disaster of severe nature, provided adequate funds are not available in SDRF.
National Disaster Response Fund
The National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) was constituted under Section 46 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
The central government has laid out the modalities for receipt of contributions/ grants from any person or institution for the purpose of disaster management in the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) as per Section 46(1)(b) of the Disaster Management (DM) Act, 2005.
Section 46 of the DM Act says that:
(1) The central government may, by notification in the official gazette, constitute a fund to be called the National Disaster Response Fund for meeting any threatening disaster situation or disaster and there shall be credited thereto —
(a) An amount which the central government may, after due appropriation made by Parliament by law in this behalf, provide.
(b) Any grants that may be made by any person or institution for the purpose of disaster management.