Even as flood-hit people in the Valley continue to suffer on one count or another, a large consignment of eatables and warm-clothing has been detained by authorities at the Jammu railway station who want Rs 27,000 as halt charges. The relief material has been sent by a voluntary organization from Bhopal, Biwani and Haryana.
The hold-up reflects the lack of co-ordination between the state government and the railways. Allowing free passage of relief material is the norm in other states, but when it comes to Kashmir, the yardsticks change. The consignment has been awaiting clearance for the past twenty-five days, and if not let through immediately, the eatables may rot. The government ought to ensure arrangements for free and effective transportation of relief to flood-hit areas as there have been occasions when voluntary organizations have been forced to pay tax on their material.
The local workers of the voluntary organization referred to above have been camping in Jammu for the past five days, without results. Railway authorities have refused to release the consignment unless halt charges are paid. The administration must step in and get the relief material allowed through speedily. As it is, the government has put up a poor show in rescue operations, and its relief component has been found too inadequate. Voluntary organizations, on the other hand, have been doing a commendable job from the very beginning. They are keen to do, and can do, much more if the administration smoothens their way. The railways must remain alive to the post-flood situation in Kashmir, and act with sensitivity and speed.
People in Kashmir face a severe winter. Those who have lost their houses will be in acute need of blankets, bedding and woolens, precisely the kind of items in the consignment held up in Jammu. If the railways cannot contribute directly to the relief effort, it should, at least, not impede the operations of those who do.