Har-Tar (Sopore): The magnitude of flood pounding Kashmir was enormous, so has been the response from volunteers to dispense relief among the affected population. Amidst the crises, a team of volunteers travel to a non-descript flood-hit village Har-Tar in Sopore town in north Kashmir. Nobody has reached this small hamlet, around 12 kilometers from the apple town since September 6, the day floodwaters submerged houses and huge swath of paddy land here.
On September 24, Hakim Khalid Ahmed, an investment consultant in Jeddah, travelled to Har-Tar along with his team of volunteers to distribute food items, medicine, water and other essentials. Since the floods hit Kashmir, Khalid is working hands-on to provide relief and rescue in the affected areas.
“The idea to do something for my people struck my mind in JK House, Prithvi Raj Road, Delhi, when I saw horrible visuals on TV. I saw 2-3 Kashmiri boys at the reception there looking disturbed. I asked them as to what they were doing? The boys had purchased medicine out of their pocket money. When I saw that kind of feeling and willingness among them, I appreciated them. They asked me if I can lead them,” Khalid said.
Khalid along with his initial team of 20 volunteers chalked out the agenda in a day and conceived a name ‘The Humanity First Volunteers Kashmir’ as well for the organization in Delhi. “The next day relief material started pouring in from Delhi-based people irrespective of creed, caste, color, religion or political leanings. We sought space from JK Resident Commissioner Delhi to stock the material,” he said.
Except for Rs 500, no cash has been accepted from anyone by this nascent organization. “A 13-year-old boy Anurag had heard about our relief work while travelling in metro in Delhi. That day was his birthday. He wanted to give charity on this special occasion and we accepted a note of Rs 500 from him as a souvenir. It was really moving. Kashmir indeed thanks people like Anurag. Lions Club Delhi provided us three lakh rupees which we refused and instead asked them to provide relief material, and they accepted it as well. Everyone helped our cause. The owner of Bahl group donated medicine. Jindal group’s owner provided a boat and medicine as well. A young couple donated fresh clothes and blankets, and that’s how our initiative started,” Khalid added.
Looking at the huge stock, Khalid descended down to Srinagar along with aid material for distribution, and the priority was to restore hospitals. “We supplied medicines to the hospitals which were functional and started maternity and pediatric care on war-footing in otherwise defunct maternity hospital at Sanat Nagar. We provided food and medicine to patients, attendants and paramedics. Then we got requisition from the Lala Ded Hospital, Bone and Joint hospital, and SMHS Hospital. We supplied medicines to these hospitals to make them functional at makeshift places,” he said.
For Khalid, the concern is not the immediate relief but long term strategy to rehabilitate the victims. The Humanity First volunteers, Khalid said, would be trained by reputed institutions for assessment of damages and consequently develop a comprehensive policy for the affected populace. “Relief is partly done. Our concentration is on rehabilitation of affected families for which more people are joining us. Some people have been left homeless and some houses aren’t worth livable. So we will provide pre-fabricated structures and accommodate them ahead of winters. Much worse, many businesses have collapsed and their employees have been rendered jobless. We are looking as how to rehabilitate them as well. This is a herculean task,” he said.
The task of providing relief, Khalid said, arose out of need as the tragedy is big. “Unless there was need we will not have come up with this organization. There is space to come in and help as more hands and brains are required to deal with the ordeal. We are going to register our organization soon. We have kept media by us for social auditing. As of now, we have dispensed relief material worth 1.5 crore rupees, which includes medicine for 80 lakh and food items for 72 lakh,” he added.
The credit for carrying relief material from Delhi, Khalid said, would not have been possible without the generous support of Wadia Group owned GoAir. “GoAir is carrying our relief material free of cost on daily basis. Till date, we received 100 tons of aid through the airline and the director of Srinagar Airport has been helpful as well in our initiative. Everyone contributed in one way or the other,” he said.
Khalid however doesn’t miss to forget the role of volunteers who conceived this humanitarian initiative. “Our work wouldn’t have been possible without Manzoor Zaroo, Shoaib Ahmed, Gurpreet Singh, Anush, Angel Zahid, Rizwan, Bilal, Zahoor, Manav, Omair, Manzoor Shah, Sahil, Dr Asrar Sultanpuri, Altaf Asrar, Iffat, Arshan, Dr Faiz, Shakir, Yasmeen and her husband Burhan, Ali, Manijah, Azhan, Mubashir, Basit, Burhan, Dr Farooq Naqshbandi, Junaid Ahmed, Ashiq, Jan Ahmed, Fatima, Aamir, Areej and many others. They are on the forefront and chose me as their team leader,” he said.
Recounting the ordeal and helplessness of people caught in the crises, Khalid said that a well-off doctor along with his wife was virtually in tears as they had no clothes to wear. “It was terrible. A retired police official from Nowgam was ready to pay anything for 50 kilograms of rice bag. We provided him rice later. We distributed relief in Indra Nagar, Raj Bagh, Gogji Bagh, Bemina and Dal interiors, which were worst affected. We treated patients in Pulwama and Chattabal (Srinagar) as well,” he said.
“I have worked as a volunteer several times in past whenever such a situation arose. That time the effort wasn’t collective as the tragedy wasn’t such enormous.
“This time, the tragedy is colossal, to say the least. Allah will punish us if we don’t wake up to help our brethren,” Khalid added.