Srinagar: The State Economic Reconstruction Forum (SERF), an amalgam of various trade bodies in Kashmir that was formed after the devastating floods last month, on Monday accused government of India of deliberately not pursuing any concrete rehabilitation policy in the flood-hit “Muslim-dominated area”.
“The floods brought huge devastation in the Valley, and there should have been some help from the government of India in the rehabilitation of people. But they are not doing it, because we live in a different state which is a conflict zone and a Muslim-dominated area,” said Mohammad Yaseen Khan, a senior member of the SERF while addressing a press conference here.
“Let me make it clear to the BJP-led government of India that if a disaster of such a magnitude would have hit any other state of India, then Indian Prime Minister would have pitched his tent in that state to do rehabilitation work,” Khan added.
He said New Delhi was expected to send one of its ministers to Kashmir, “but the minister has already declared that he is coming with a new loan scheme and not with any relief and rehabilitation package.”
“What have we to do with the new loan policy which is like putting extra burden on businessmen,” Khan said.
He said the state government has sent the proposal to New Delhi for a package of Rs 44,000 crore, where as its own estimation of primary losses was Rs one trillion, and empirical studies put that losses to be two and a half times the amount of the primary losses.
“How the government plans to account for such a shortfall is a riddle on which only they can elaborate on. We think that government of India will not be able to give even Rs 44,000 crore. So we appeal that the rest should come from international organizations like Asian Development Bank and World Bank or any other organization which can render help to Kashmir,” said Khan.
He said they will not press for international aid to flow in Kashmir if government of India will be able to compensate all the losses itself.
Khan also accused state government of not creating pressure on government of India for making any concrete rehabilitation program for Kashmir and allowing international aid to come to Kashmir.
“State government does not seem to be existing anywhere in Kashmir. We have not seen any state minister visiting any affected area so far. It has been one month since the floods hot Kashmir, but have heard anything from the government?” said Khan.
He said that SERF sent various memoranda to the state government suggesting various measures to be taken for the rehabilitation of the people, but there has been no response from them.
“We are sending another memorandum to the state government today through the media, and if the government does not come with any response we will be forced to come out on the streets,” Khan said.
“We don’t beg before the state government or government of India for anything; we only demand our right as per the RBI guidelines as per which we give our taxes in different forms,” he said.
Another SERF member, G.M Dug on the occasion said that as winters are approaching, the situation on the ground is getting from bad to worse with each passing day.
“The state government is disoriented, its efforts directionless and disorganized. The disaster prevention policy has been disastrous and the disaster response efforts of the government could be termed as a calamity of rare severity for the people,” said Dug.
He said that the SERF proposes boarding and lodging facilities kept for Civil Secretariat employees be provided to the homeless people for the period of six months after the Darbar move or that rental subsidy be provided if there is shortage of accommodation.
“We also demand that the assessment of all losses in all sectors of business including retail, wholesale, horticulture, agriculture, tourism and others be done by the state government in close collaboration with the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank through Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) as was done in case of Uttrakand,” said Dug.
He said that there seems to be a concerted attempt by the government “to impose the façade of normalcy on the wet canvas of misery and destruction of Kashmir.”
He also demanded 10-year income tax exemption and two-year commercial tax exemption for Kashmir and criticized the banks operating in the state for not implementing the guidelines in case of a disaster.
“The banks have delayed implementation of the RBI guidelines in order to charge interest for the month of September when the Valley was under water. They have even encouraged adhoc limits and overdrafts during the period. We demand for reversal of all interest charged on loan accounts for the period of September,” said Dug.
Another SERF member Mubeen Shah on the occasion said that for the rehabilitation and revival of Srinagar, government of India should declare it to be one of the first SMART cities in India under the plan of making 100 SMART cities across India.
“It was in BJP’s election manifesto that they will make 100 SMART cities across India and if it will include Srinagar in that it will solve many problems like communication, transportation and others here,” said Shah.