SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir government has not moved an inch from its archaic position on disaster management, despite the state having been hit by three natural disasters since 2009. The story is the same whether one considers the 2014 floods, the 2010 Leh cloud burst or the 2009 drought: rampant lack of planning, bad coordination and shadowy transfers of funds meant for disaster survivors.
Take for instance the state government’s response during the 2014 floods that claimed nearly 300 lives and shattered the state economy like a pack of cards. According to the latest report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the state had not established an evacuation plan and relief centres, resulting in rescue, evacuation and relief being managed in an ad hoc manner.
“Assistance amounting to Rs 12.6 crore due to affected families remained undisbursed while tents, blankets valuing Rs 3.30 crore remained unutilized,” says the report. “The government announced free ration… two 1,99,482 quintals of ration was provided less to 4,53,629 ration card holders while 87 thousand quintals of ration was provided less to 1,20,033 non-card holding families for the six months.”
The report said there was a delay in the disbursement of gratuitous relief, defeating the very purpose of providing the relief that is meant to be immediate.
The report said milk purchased for the flood-affected was either used by the state-run Milk Producer Co-operative as part of its business or was not traceable. According to the report, 75,000 kgs of whole milk and 5,000 kgs of skimmed milk were purchased, but only 7,000 kgs of whole milk were distributed while 2,600 kgs of milk were damaged.
The report makes it plain that the same problem could also be seen in the government’s response to the 2010 Leh cloudburst. Timely relief for next-of-kin was provided in only 123 out of 216 cases. Delays in making disbursements in the remaining cases ranged between one and 17 months, the report said.
“Relief at the rate of Rs 50,000 was not provided to 96 seriously-injured persons as the district administration failed to forward the cases to the Prime Minister’s Office,” the report added. “Payment of Rs 1.60 crore for 118 houses was made to persons who did not figure in the list approved by the district administration.”
The report also considers the 2009 drought, which is also a story of mismanagement and delay in disbursement of assistance.
“Rs 16.5 lakh was released from the SDRF to PHE divisions in Srinagar, Ganderbal and Shopian which were not declared affected by drought and were hence ineligible for such funds,” reads the report.
“Against the norms of relief to be provided within 90 days, relief was distributed to the affected farmers as late as in February 2011 and January 2015,” reveals the report.