Step On It

After a severe reprimand from the union minister for roads and highways, Nitin Gadkari, last week, the Jammu and Kashmir government has finally come up with its assessment of damage caused by recent floods. It may, however, take another week or more for the state to submit the report to the union government. And, unless it is submitted, New Delhi may not declare the floods a national calamity. Delay in submitting the report will automatically delay its relief and rehabilitation measures. The attempt here is not to bail the government of India out, but to underscore that procedures and technicalities require a detailed loss assessment report by the state.

Gadkari took strong exception to the J and K government not assessing the damage swiftly, and its failure to activate men and machinery immediately. In a meeting with the union minister, an officer of the state government placed a few sheets of paper before Gadkari as the “preliminary report.”  The union minister lost his cool and instructed his own team members to take charge of damage assessment and ensure that the report was prepared without wasting time.

If the government of India declares the JK floods as a national calamity, then people whose houses have been destroyed would get Rs 5 lakh compensation, and special packages would be announced for businessmen and farmers who have suffered extensive damage. New Delhi is waiting for the state government to make the first move and come up with a detailed report about the losses.

According to the state government’s assessment report, Jammu and Kashmir has suffered losses to the tune of Rs 100.000 crore. At a press conference on Monday, the Chief Secretary said that the recent floods were a calamity of international standards. The floods have claimed 270 lives, hit 12.50 lakh families, inundated 5,642 villages, out of which 800 remained submerged for more than two weeks. The floods destroyed 83,044 concrete houses completely, while 96,089 houses were damaged partially.  21,162 semi-concrete houses were completely damaged and 54,264 such houses suffered partial damage, and other structures, including granaries, damaged in the floods numbered around 353,864. The government should have carried out the assessment earlier, keeping in view the extent of damage. Much time has already been wasted by lazy ministers and bureaucrats. Now, the state government has to speed up the process.  People are suffering, and urgent and tangible measures need to be taken before winter.