Exercise Samanjasya:

Sub Title : A ground-breaking initiative led by Lt Gen NS Raja Subramani, Army Commander of the Lucknow-based Army Central Command, marked a first in holistic disaster response training.

Issues Details : Vol 18 Issue 2 May – Jun 2024

Author : Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SM, VSM & BAR (Retd)

Page No. : 38

Category : Military Affairs

: June 5, 2024

With climate change a reality and altering weather patterns already upon us the importance of disaster management as a subset of National Security can no longer receive short shrift. If ‘All of Government’ approach is to be adopted as a principle, then the first efforts towards involving the Armed Forces in disaster management in a transformational way can only mean an enhanced professional approach towards disaster management in India

In the middle of April 2024 Lt Gen NS Raja Subramani, PVSM, AVSM, SM, VSM, GOC-in-C of the Lucknow based Army Central Command approached NDMA with a one liner – “could NDMA organise a Table Top Exercise (TTEx) for the Army’s Central Command”. It was music to our ears because the Army Commander of the Indian Army’s Command with some of the largest and most hazard prone states under it, desired to adopt a professional approach towards disaster management (DM) in his area of responsibility, educate his officers and men and spark interest in a domain which is fast becoming yet another important area for the uniformed forces. The   Army Commander, coming from the Garhwal Rifles and having commanded Uttar Bharat Area, is well aware of the intense disaster threats in Uttarkhand and how these have been handled. He wished to educate his own officers in terms of awareness about advances made in technology, familiarization with the various organizations that are termed stakeholders in this responsibility and getting to understand some of the best practices advocated by experienced stakeholders. He also desired to be briefed on the Kumbh Mela the once in twelve years event which falls within his area of responsibility.

There cannot be a better medium of joint understanding of the  Disaster Management (DM) dynamics than through a TTEx preceded by a symposium comprising short presentations by all the major stakeholders, including the technical ones.

My own interest in the field of integrated disaster response was sparked by two major disasters, the aftermath of which saw me visiting the areas physically and taking stock of the situation to determine the type of strategic view we should be taking of such disasters. The first was the 7 Feb 2021 Chamoli disaster where the Tapovan power project was severely affected by a flash flood emanating from a glaciated area; 200 people died /went missing in the head race tunnel when it got flooded. The second was the Sikkim disaster of 3-4 Oct 2023. In both the Army besides being severely affected in different ways also played a role in the DM. Of course, a coordinated effort based upon well-rehearsed drills as per the Incident Response System (IRS) was missing.

While representatives from the Army attend mock exercises conducted by the NDMA in States, their approach has been usually transactional. A basic lacuna which applies to the entire nation has been the absence of the Army from having representation in the State Disaster Management Authority and incorporating its basic inputs in the State Disaster Management Plan.

The Sikkim disaster, where both the Army and the ITBP performed admirably within the constraints of their awareness and readiness, led to awareness at national level that there is a need for an integrated approach to DM especially in border regions. The Indian Air Force, Indian Navy  and the Indian Coastguard all need to be a part of the integrated effort in different terrain and different kinds of hazards.

Conduct of Exercise Samanjasya – A Pioneering Initiative in Disaster Preparedness

Exercise Samanjasya, a ground-breaking initiative led by Lt Gen NS Raja Subramani, Army Commander of the Lucknow-based Army Central Command, marked a first in holistic disaster response training. This exercise was conceptualized by Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain, with Lt Gen NC Marwah serving as the mentor, bringing together over 50 organizations nationwide that are pivotal in disaster preparedness and response.

Host and Support The exercise was hosted at the Army facility in Lucknow Cantt, with critical administrative support provided by Uttar Pradesh SDMA and active involvement from Army Central Command’s subordinate formations and SDMAs of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, and Himachal Pradesh. In addition, more than 50 other organisations participated through their representatives, including IAF, BRO, NDRF, Central Water Commission (CWC), IMD, DGRE (former SASE), GSI, NCS, NRSC, ITBP, SSB, SDRFs, Indian Railways and MoRTH.

Objective and Focus The primary aim was to enhance awareness of the Army’s role as first responders in remote areas, understanding the capabilities of key organizations, and fostering inter-agency coordination. This effort was directed towards achieving a synergistic response to disasters, embodying a ‘Whole of Government’ and ‘Whole of Society’ approach.

Conduct and Activities The event began with a Coordinating Conference on May 10, 2024, which set the stage for a symposium and a Table Top Exercise held on May 16, 2024. The symposium highlighted the challenges of disaster management specific to the Army Central Command’s area of responsibility, with presentations from various departments like NDMA, IMD, and CWC. The Table Top Exercise later in the day provided scenario-based, hazard-specific training to validate integrated preparedness and response strategies.

Symposium Highlights The symposium served as a platform to align all stakeholders on common challenges, with presentations covering disaster management overviews, hazard-specific risks like floods, avalanches, and landslides, and innovative alert systems like the CAP app ‘Sachet’ which successfully mitigated casualties during Cyclone Biparjoy. Some of the issues of significance were:

  • Hazard, Risk and Vulnerability Analysis (HRVA) based preparedness, including integration in Area of Responsibility.
  • Risk monitoring, decision making and deployment process on escalation (various Army levels) and requisitioning process by the civil administration.
  • Army tasks, Resource allocation, Training and Capacity for Search and Rescue (SAR) operations.
  • Generation of situational awareness; command, control and communications.
  • Hazard specific response cycle (Earthquake, Floods, GLOF, Chemical and Avalanches) and other likely Army and agency specific tasks.
  • Logistics and other support required from Civil Administration for deployed troops and all other response agencies.
  • Mainstreaming Mitigation in Army – areas and opportunities; for example, planning robust road infrastructure in border states.

Exercise Conduct and Learning Outcomes The TTEx focused on maximizing learning through syndicate solutions to various hazard situations, emphasizing hazard, risk, and vulnerability analysis, and enhancing the Army’s disaster response capabilities. The outcomes highlighted improved coordination, better resource mapping, and streamlined processes for an effective integrated response.

Way Forward and Lessons Learned The exercise concluded with plans to extend these initiatives to all regional Commands of the Armed Forces and to hold annual disaster management conferences to further discuss and refine disaster response strategies. The lessons have been broadly summarised as follows:-

  • Enhanced Interface: Army and IAF, with State(s) + all Stakeholders.
  • This initiative should be extended to cover all regional Commands of the Armed Forces and shortened capsules may be conducted at Category A establishments.
  • Jointly steered (by Area HQ and SDMA) Annual DM Conferences be held to discuss DM related issues including HRVA based mitigation and preparedness. Other service reps to be co-opted, as applicable. NDMA to facilitate participation of Central agencies and Command HQ to monitor conduct.
  • Similar DM Symposium / Conference should be held at major Military Stations (two / three) in each Command AOR with involvement of Sub Area HQ, local Formations and SDMAs, based on an Annual Calendar.
  • Structured Coordination and Preparedness Conferences should be held at DDMA level periodically as per hazard risk manifestation e.g. prior to flood/cyclone season.
  • SDMAs must incorporate Armed Forces role in disaster response in SDMPs/ DDMPs to include contingencies, tasks and resources of all elements as relevant (Army, IAF, Navy, ICG). Similar aspects be included in respect of CAPFs, SSB, BRO, NDRF and SDRF with details of specialised equipment available.
  • Services must have appropriate representation in the SEC, SDMA and DDMAs.
  • DM Capacity Building of the Army could also be an element of Perspective Planning. The DM brick proposed long ago and shelved could also be revived as an additional resource.
  • Command HQ, Formations and Army Units must graduate from IS and Flood Schemes to multi-hazard Disaster Response Plans, based on relevant SDMP/DDMPs.
  • EW Agencies should formalise sharing of forecasts and warnings with Army and IAF.
  • SOPs/Checklists be prepared for disaster risk monitoring and action on risk escalation.
  • Army is likely to be the first responder being deployed in remote/ border areas. It must augment hazard-based capacity accordingly. This should include a role in building community awareness and resilience.
  • Army should have access to the Indian Disaster Resource network (IDRN) resource inventory. NIDM should initiate measures towards this in coordination with NDMA. It can consider tabulating BRO resources on the IDRN as a start and subsequently its own DM resources, subject to security considerations.
  • Army could adopt a structured approach to building disaster resilience of KLPs and operational infrastructure.

Attending the event and giving their insights were:-

Lt Gen NS Raja Subramani, PVSM, AVSM, SM VSM,

GOC in C, Central Command

Shri Kamal Kishore, Member & HoD NDMA

Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain, PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SM,  VSM & BAR, Member NDMA

Shri Rajender Singh, Member SDMA

Lt Gen YS Dimri, PVSM, AVSM, (Retd),

Vice Chairperson UPSDMA

Lt Gen NC Marwah, PVSM, AVSM (Retd), Former Member NDMA

Lt Gen RP Shahi, Former Chairperson UPSDMA

Maj Gen Sudhir Behl, Lead Consultant, NDMA conducted the Table Top Ex.


NDMA thanks all departments who participated in Exercise Samanjasya and hopes for similar continued interest in future integrated training events.