“Aapda Mitras: Friends in need are friends indeed!” — ‘A Triology saga of Youth Volunteerism in CBDRR in India’

Sub Title : A superb initiative to mitigate disasters’ impact through a trained volunteer force at the local levels

Issues Details : Vol 17 Issue 4 Sep – Oct 2023

Author : Rajendra Singh

Page No. : 55

Category : Military Affairs

: September 22, 2023

The Aapda Mitra Scheme, guided by India’s Prime Minister and the National Disaster Management Authority, aims to empower community volunteers in disaster response. These “Aapda Mitras” act as first responders, leveraging local knowledge, rapid action, and trust to enhance disaster preparedness and long-term resilience. The initiative aligns with India’s heightened need for effective, localized disaster management strategies.

India, with its vast territory, large population and unique geo-climatic condition is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. In last few decades India has experienced catastrophes like floods, landslides, cyclones, earthquakes, droughts etc. that have caused a huge devastation in various parts. Further in recent years, the frequency and intensity of natural disasters have increased many-fold, highlighting the need for well-coordinated effective disaster management strategies. A common trend noticed in all the major recent disasters across the country is that, while external help and assistance often took time to reach affected individuals, local community were the first to respond and come to the rescue of their fellow community members. This overwhelming and spontaneous contribution from the members from within the community suggest that community awareness, preparedness and training, particularly to those residing in vulnerable areas, are crucial in saving valuable lives and property. Trained volunteer forces within the community can provide prompt and effective response in disasters more effectively and in a more professional and coordinated manner.

In this era of increasing natural disasters, the Aapda Mitra Scheme has emerged as a ray of hope, transforming ordinary individuals into extraordinary forces of change. Under the visionary guidance of the Hon’ble Prime Minister, who is also the Chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), this groundbreaking program took flight. The Aapda Mitras community volunteers armed with knowledge, skills, and compassion have become the frontline warriors in the battle against disasters.

The Aapda Mitras exemplify values of solidarity, selflessness, and unwavering determination. With specialized training and resources at their disposal, these brave individuals act as the bridge between their communities and the formal disaster management systems. Armed with an intimate understanding of local vulnerabilities, resources, and infrastructure, they discern risks, tailor disaster management strategies, and execute effective mitigation plans. Their role is akin to rapid-response units, skillfully navigating through chaos to extend a helping hand to those in need.

In these times of escalating natural calamities, the Aapda Mitra Scheme shines as a beacon, turning regular individuals into impactful agents of change. Under the guidance of the Hon’ble Prime Minister and Chairman of the NDMA, this innovative program was launched. Aapda Mitra volunteers, equipped with expertise, empathy, and dedication, now spearhead disaster relief efforts.

These volunteers embody the principles of unity, altruism, and steadfast commitment. Equipped with advanced training and resources, they bridge the gap between communities and official disaster management systems. With deep insights into local vulnerabilities and assets, they identify threats, craft specific disaster response plans, and implement efficient prevention methods. They function like swift action teams, adeptly wading through disorder to assist those in distress.

Central to the Aapda Mitra Scheme is the trust these volunteers garner from their communities. Being integral community members, they’re trusted and respected by their counterparts, facilitating effective dialogue and collaboration. Their presence not only ensures swift aid but also promotes community unity and active involvement in disaster readiness and prevention. The scheme’s empowerment of local individuals instills disaster readiness into daily routines, fostering long-term resilience and reducing reliance on external aid, paving the way for a safer future in vulnerable areas.

Central to the Aapda Mitra Scheme is the trust volunteers have cultivated within their communities. As community members, they’re held in high regard, enhancing communication and collaboration. Their involvement not only guarantees timely help but also strengthens community unity, spurring active participation in disaster readiness. Through this scheme, disaster preparedness seamlessly integrates into daily routines. Such a sustainable model fosters enduring resilience, minimizes reliance on outside aid, and promises a safer future for at-risk areas.

Three Strong Pillars of Aapda Mitra Scheme

The Aapda Mitra Scheme of the NDMA has one thing in common – both are based on three vital ingredients of disaster response network, namely. (i) Volunteerism; (ii) Power of youth; and (iii) the Community participation. It’s a voluntary action by the youth population of that area, by the community, of the community and for the community. It would be highly relevant to throw some light on these three vital factors first, before we discuss the Aapda Mitra initiative of the National Disaster Management Authority

Pillar# 1


Pillar # 2

Youth Power

Pillar # 3

Community-based disaster risk reduction

Volunteering refers to ‘any activity in which time is given freely to benefit another person, group or organisation’. The term is generally used to refer to activities that are non-obligatory (there is no contractual, familial or friendship obligation between the helper and the helped, nor coercion); undertaken for the benefit of others, society as a whole, or a specific organisation; unpaid; and undertaken in an organised context.

Volunteerism, in the context of disaster management, signifies the selfless act of extending one’s time, skills, and resources for the betterment of others and society at large. These volunteers, unburdened by obligation or coercion, emerge as a formidable resource during emergencies. In times of crisis, their untiring dedication manifests as an indispensable asset for emergency and disaster management. Their efforts, when effectively coordinated, synergize with established response systems, paving the way for efficient and harmonized action. This alignment not only maximizes impact but also prevents redundancy and ensures the safety of both volunteers and the affected population.

India, a nation with rising youth population—approximately 44% of over 1.4 billion. This demographic, aged between 18 and 35, holds immense potential to significantly reduce disaster vulnerability. The youth possess qualities that make them pivotal in disaster management. The important roles are: –

(a)        Critical Thinkers: Ability to challenge norms and effect change empowers them to question existing power structures.

(b)       Change-makers: Growing trend of youth activism worldwide underscores their power to mobilize others and drive transformation.

(c)        Innovators: With fresh perspectives, they offer insights inaccessible to adults, sparking innovation.

(d)        Communicators and Leaders: Empowered with knowledge, skills, and training, they can lead change, save lives and properties.


Youth-led organizations foster civic and leadership skills, amplifying their impact.

Youth-led organizations and networks in particular should be supported and strengthened, because they contribute to the development of civic and leadership skills among young people. (Source: Youth in India – 2022).


With its unique geo-climatic and socio-economic conditions, the nation is at high risk from a multitude of natural and man-made hazards.  However, in the face of adversity, the resilient spirit of the Indian people shines through, as they emerge as the first responders in times of crisis. Recognizing this incredible strength of youth, the government has launched a ground breaking initiative to empower these unsung heroes—the Aapda Mitra Scheme.

When disaster strikes, time is of the essence, and external aid often takes precious moments to arrive at the affected areas. That’s where the true heroes step forward the community volunteers. Working tirelessly at the grassroots level, they become the lifeline of their neighborhoods, offering swift and compassionate support when it matters most. They are not only victims of the disaster but also the first to respond, rebuild, and disaster-proof their communities. These local heroes possess an invaluable understanding of their surroundings and have an innate ability to navigate the intricate web of challenges brought about by calamities.

The country’s overall vulnerability is significant, and its communities are both at risk and serve as first responders. As victims of disasters, people are the first to respond, rebuild, and protect their communities and lives. Therefore, community awareness and preparedness, particularly among those residing in vulnerable areas, are crucial. Trained volunteer forces within the community have been observed to provide prompt and effective responses in disasters and similar situations, making their role essential. By equipping volunteers with the necessary knowledge, skills, and resources, Aapda Mitra Scheme empowers them to become agents of change within their communities. These volunteers, play a pivotal role in reshaping behavior


In recent years, a rise in the frequency and severity of natural disasters underscores the imperative for robust disaster management strategies. Addressing this, the Government of India, led by the esteemed Prime Minister and Chairman of the NDMA, initiated the Aapda Mitra scheme. This program aims to empower volunteers, designated as “Aapda Mitras” or first responders. This article delves into the pivotal role these Aapda Mitras play, bridging communities with official disaster management mechanisms and the myriad advantages their engagement offers, which are :-

  • Localized Knowledge: Aapda Mitras possess intimate knowledge of their communities, including local vulnerabilities, resources, and infrastructure. This knowledge helps in identifying risks, developing localized disaster management plans, and implementing effective mitigation strategies.
  • Rapid Response: Being part of the community, Aapda Mitras can quickly respond to emergencies, as they are familiar with local geography and dynamics. Their presence reduces response time and ensures immediate assistance reaches those in need.
  • Trust and Communication: Aapda Mitras, being community members themselves, enjoy the trust and respect of their peers. This facilitates effective communication and encourages community members to actively participate in preparedness and mitigation activities.
  •   Sustainability and Long-Term Resilience: Aapda Mitras contribute to the sustainability of disaster management efforts. By empowering individuals within the community, the program ensures that disaster preparedness becomes an integral part of their daily lives, promoting long-term resilience and reducing dependence on external assistance.

The Evolution of Aapda Mitra Scheme

 Aapda Mitra Scheme, derived from the 10 Point Agenda suggested by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India aims to developed hundred thousand volunteers with skills of first responder in the aftermath of a disaster. The first cohort was seen enthusiastic in responding to recent disasters. Based on the resounding success of the Pilot Aapda Mitra Project, it was decided to launch the second edition entitled, ‘Upscaling of Aapda Mitra Scheme’ (UAMS). The following are the main components of the scheme:

  • Selection of volunteers: The Age Group of volunteers is 18-40. However, there is relaxation to ex-Army officers, retired medical professionals, civil engineers. The volunteer must be a resident of the concerned District. The educational qualification is 7th Standard. Participation – 20% volunteers from NYKS, NCC, NSS, Bharat Scout and Guides. For rest volunteers, preference would be given to ex-servicemen, personnel from Fire Services, Civil Defence, and Home Guards, fishermen, maritime drivers, retired state Reserve Picture: Aapda Mitra attending rating Police Officers and retired CAPF personnel etc. The State/UT will encourage involvement and leadership of women volunteers in DRM.
  • Selection of districts: The districts (350) were identified based on the hazard profile of the District and in consultation with States/UTs.
  • Training of volunteers: The duration of training will be 12 days as per the curriculum module and handbook shared by NDMA. Each trained volunteer will be provided I-Card, Certificate, and an ERK including individual insurance policy.
  • Purchase of ERK and EERR: An indicative list of items under ERK and EERR has been shared by NDMA. However, States/UTs were to purchase the items as per the requirement of the concerned District/State/UT and also in consultation with NDRF/SDRF. Emergency Responder Kit (ERK) includes Group Insurance for trained volunteers. The insurance will cover death, permanent total disability, permanent partial disability, temporary total disability, and hospital expenses. Emergency Essential Resource Reserve (EERR) has to be procured for each District and it has provision of Grant for repair & maintenance of equipment.
  • Information Management System for overall monitoring of the Scheme: Details about the number of trained volunteers, trainer profiles, institution credentials, items procured under ERK and EERR, financial data, and insurance are currently being updated. Additionally, a mobile application has been introduced for real-time tracking of trained volunteers.

The Aapda Mitra Scheme transcends being just a program; it embodies a movement reflecting the unwavering spirit of India. Every trained volunteer symbolizes a step towards a more resilient nation. As the initiative expands, its transformative effect on communities is palpable. These empowered individuals are crafting a roadmap for resilient neighborhoods, ensuring they remain steadfast, united, and ready amidst challenges. The program accentuates community involvement and local insights as the cornerstone of effective disaster management. By fostering Aapda Mitras, the initiative taps into the intrinsic potential of individuals, driving disaster mitigation. They act as liaisons between communities and formalized disaster systems, championing readiness, streamlining responses, and nurturing lasting resilience. With the Aapda Mitra initiative’s momentum, there’s a palpable promise of fostering robust communities throughout India.

Recognizing the second edition’s unparalleled success, endorsed by States based on their disaster response experiences, NDMA is gearing up to unveil the third edition: the ‘Yuva Aapda Mitra Scheme’ (YAMS). Anticipated to mirror the success of its predecessors, this edition moves the Indian community closer to achieving disaster resilience. Let’s celebrate our communal spirit as we envisage a safer, brighter future for India.