Contemporary academic debates on the history of the colonial Famine Codes in India—also
considered to be the first coded and institutionalised normative frameworks for natural disaster
response on the continent—generally are based on one of two perspectives. The first focuses on their economic rationale, whereas the second underlines that they constitute an anti-famine contract between the colonial masters and the people of India. This paper demonstrates that both of these viewpoints are limited in scope and that they simplify the nature of governance instituted through famine response practices in Colonial India. It links this reality to current disaster response policies and practices in India and shows that the discussion on the development of normative frameworks underlying disaster response is far from over. The paper goes on to evaluate the development of normative frameworks for disaster response and recovery, which remain embroiled in the politics of governmentality that underlies their development.