Srinagar: A civil society group Sunday asked J&K government to constitute a State Flood Relief Authority comprising state agencies, civil society actors, NGOs, donors and people engaged in distribution of relief, for management and monitoring of aid and rehabilitation of the flood victims.
“Apart from collection of aid, its management and monitoring, the Authority should be assigned the job of regulation, reconstruction and rehabilitation project,” said Hameedah Nayeem, chairperson Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies (KCSDS) while addressing a press conference here.
The KCSDS also demanded that the aid, which has been received in the Prime Minister’s and Chief Minister’s Fund, should be transferred to the Authority.
Hameedah said that in the aftermath of floods, the KCSDS facilitated a series of meetings of civil society groups and NGOs which are engaged in relief distribution in order to put in place an inter-organizational coordination system as a monitoring mechanism for equitable distribution of relief in the affected areas.
“For this purpose a web portal has been developed that will ensure regulation and streamlining of relief for equitable distribution to avoid over service, under service or no service and ensure accountability and transparency in relief collection and distribution. The coordination has been named as Kashmir Floods Inter Organizational Coordination System (KFCS),” said Hameedah.
The KCSDS appealed government to allow aid from the United Nations, Asian Development Bank and other global institutions flow into Kashmir for reconstruction purposes.
“Looking at the magnitude of losses, no government will be equal to the task of reconstruction and rehabilitation of around 50 lakh flood affected people. Therefore international aid from United nations, foreign countries, NGOs and individuals across the globe, World Bank, Asian Development bank and other such institutions should be allowed to flow into Kashmir without further delay,” said Hameedah.
Hameedah also added that in order to facilitate the quick reception and transmission of any kind of relief by individual donors from foreign countries, FCRA restrictions should be waved off for a period of at least three years.
The group criticized the state government and government of India for delay in interim relief and rehabilitation package which was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 9.
“There is a criminal delay in relief and rehabilitation measures by the state government and government of India, not a single penny has been released so far by government of India despite Prime Minister’s announcement for an interim relief of Rs 1000 crore. Government of India needs to come clear on its intentions on compensation of losses to the sufferers,” said Hameedah.
The group also demanded a high level judicial probe into the cause of flood and the negligence of the warnings given in 2010 by Flood Control Department and fix responsibilities.
“Most people who were neck deep in water or up to waist line said the water was ice cold. There is a strong perception in public that some glacier has melted somewhere which hugely got mixed with rain waters and led to the unprecedented flashfloods. This needs to be looked into on priority basis by the govt as too much human interference in recent years in the pristine glacial areas has already lead to glacial warming.
“Nobody could have stopped the vagaries of nature, but the government could considerably lessen its impact on people by plugging the loopholes in advance and by taking necessary measures to deal with flash floods. There is an absolute necessity to probe all the omissions and commissions within a period of three months to fix responsibilities and prosecute those guilty of negligence and interference,” said Hameedah.
She said like other states, Jammu and Kashmir should also have POP system in place which will help the vertical reception of communication through satellite and facilitate quick communication system which can also stand the vagaries of weather.
“The urban flood has completely destroyed the nerve centre of our economy. The business hub in Lal Chowk and adjacent areas lies in total ruins. We impress upon the government to revive business and livelihoods through exgratia, interest free or soft loans and other policy interventions’” said Hameedah.
A KCSDS member and prominent doctor and writer, Dr. Altaf Ahmad, who also spoke on the occasion, said the state government was trying to cover the disaster under the veil of secrecy by giving the impression to the outside world that everything is normal in Kashmir after the floods.
“There is no credible medical infrastructure in the Valley to tackle any health disaster. The major hospitals are non-functional, there is not even a basic medical facility like blood bank or CT Scan,” Dr Altaf said.
He said the WHO office in New Delhi did not take the notice of medical and health situation in Kashmir, but accepted the inputs from Health Ministry, government of India to send its report to its head office in Geneva.
“We impress upon the government to take the health issue on priority basis and make funds available to the hospitals to built the infrastructure,” said Dr Altaf.
Another KCSDS member, Shakeel Qalander said that so far state government has shown insensitive in relief and rehabilitation of affected people and instead it is imposing normalcy on the people which is not there.
“We as civil society members in consultation with various groups gave various suggestions to the government for their relief and rehabilitation program, but they did not adhere to any of our suggestion. They are presenting a rosy picture about Kashmir outside the world when six lakh people have been affected and around 2 lakh hectares of agricultural land has been washed away,” said Qalander.
He said if the government further delays the relief and rehabilitation of the people they will be forced to take any step for which only government will be responsible.