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The Civil Defence Policy of the Government till the declaration of emergency in 1962 was confined to making the States and Union Territories conscious of the need of Civil Defence measures and to ask them to keep ready Civil Defence Paper Plans for major cities & towns under the then Emergency Relief Organisation (ERO) Scheme. Two major incidents gave reason to the development of Civil Defence in India; the 1962 Indo-China and the 1965 Indo-Pak conflicts. This led to a considerable rethinking about the policy & scope of Civil Defence and as a result the Civil Defence Policy as it exists today, was evolved and Civil Defence legislation was enacted in the Parliament in 1968. In the 1971 Indo-Pak War, the Civil Defence acquitted itself commendably.

Civil Defence aims at saving lives, minimizing damage to the property and maintain ing continuity of industrial production in the event of an hostile attack. The Civil Defence Act of 1968, is though applicable throughout the country, but the organisation is only raised in such areas & zones which are tactically and strategically considered vulnerable from enemy attack points of view. At the moment Civil Defence activities are restricted to 135 categorised towns spread over 32 States/Union Territories. To meet the early warning communication requirement for an impending hostile attack, a reliable and flexible network, both on telephone lines and radio/wireless, have been established in most of the categorised Civil Defence Towns. Communication facilities, on telephone lines & radio, has also been planned and established in most of the Civil Defence towns for the purpose of command, control, coordination & liaison and also for mutual aid and cooperation.

Civil Defence is primarily organised on a voluntary basis except for a small nucleus of paid staff and establishment, which is augmented during emergencies. The present target of Civil Defence volunteers is 394,000 personnel in 135 towns in 32 states. Apart from carrying out training and demonstration of Civil Defence measures during peacetime, Civil Defence volunteers are also deployed, on voluntary basis, in various constructive activities including assistance to the administration, relief & rescue work during natural calamities like floods, earthquakes, cyclones, droughts, etc. by the administration of the State Governments/Union Territories of their own. Civil Defence Training is conducted in the country on a three-tier concept, i.e. Local/Town level, at State level and National level. The National Civil Defence College at Nagpur, a subordinate training establishment of the Ministry, conducts various courses in civil defence and disaster relief management.

Role Of Civil Defence:
Civil Defence is in fact a tremendously important component in a system of total defence of a country which comprise 1) Military, Naval and Air Defence; 2) Civil Defence; 3) Economic Defence; and 4) Psychological Defence. When these four components become totally integrated - one can say the Nation is near its goal. Economic and Psychological Defences of any country are not of much consequence in modern warfare if civil defence is not complete. In India Civil Defence played a major role when we faced threats of aggression from across the border.

Civil Defence although existed in India in some rudimentary form, it was properly organized in its present form only in November 1962 soon after the Chinese aggression. This was further developed to serve as a major force in inculcating a sense of discipline among the people, which is needed in times of National Emergency. The Home Guards, which is a vital wing of the Civil Defence, had already existed in a number of States but it was also reinforced and strengthened just before and after the 1965 conflict with Pakistan. Since then there has been a better understanding and appreciation and concern among the people of the necessity of regular civil defence activities and having a strong and permanent organization.

When internal security in the country is of great concern now because of the unabated proxy war launched by our western neighbour with a view to destabilize the country, Civil Defence becomes more relevant. The cross border terrorism, which is continuing with the active support and aid of Pakistan, has narrowed down the gap between external threat and internal security. In a situation like this Civil Defence has a vital role to play in times of emergency.

What exactly is the role of Civil Defence? It aims at saving life, minimizing damage to property, helps maintaining continuity of industrial production in the event of a catastrophe resulting from hostile attack or any terrorist act. Its volunteers have done an excellent job over the years in helping the public especially after the 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan and later during many natural catastrophes.

Civil Defence is primarily organized on voluntary basis except for a small nucleus of paid staff and establishment, which is augmented during any emergency. Till now about 5 lakh volunteers have been trained in the country. The training is conducted in three tiers namely Local/Town level, State level and National level. The National Civil Defence College, Nagpur conducts the various courses in Civil Defence and Disaster Relief Management since its inception in 1957. The college has also trained student volunteers from foreign countries. Some Central financial assistance to the States for Civil Defence measures are also given on regular basis.

The Home Guard, now a vital wing of the Civil Defence force was first raised in India in December 1946 to assist the State Police in controlling civil disturbance and communal riots. Subsequently, several States adopted the concept of the voluntary citizens force. However, after the Chinese aggression the Centre advised the States and Union Territories to merge their existing voluntary organizations into one uniform voluntary force to form Home Guards. It now serves as an auxiliary force to the police in maintaining internal security and helps the community in times of any disaster/calamity etc. It helps in the maintenance of essential services, promote communal harmony and assist the administration in protecting weaker sections, participate in socio-economic and welfare activities. The Home Guards are raised under the Home Guards Act and Rules and recruited from various cross sections of the society including doctors, engineers, lawyers, private sector organizations, college and university students, agricultural and industrial workers who give their spare time to the organization in serving the community. The normal tenure of Membership is 3 to 5 years. The amenities provided to the voluntary force include free uniform and washing allowance, free boarding and lodging during training, cash awards and medals for gallantry, distinguished and meritorious services. They are paid training allowance while undergoing training.
Fire Service is another important wing of Civil Defence and one knows how the volunteers and staff of this organization rise to any occasion to contain any disaster and rescue the people. The States and Union Territories organize the fire fighting services. The Ministry of Home Affairs renders technical advice to this force and also arranges soft GIC loans through Ministry of Finance for purchasing equipments and construction of buildings. Realizing its vital role, the 11th Finance Commission has allocated over 200 crore rupees for the proper development of Fire Services in the States and Union Territories. Training of junior level fire professionals are conducted by the States in the State Fire Training Schools while the officers are trained in the National Fire Service College at Nagpur. So far, about 12,500 fire officers have been trained in this college, which included foreign trainees from 12 countries.

Now that the Government has been giving more thrust on police reforms, it is expected that the Civil Defence will also be developed and strengthened considering its vital role in times of National Emergency.

 
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