Sleeping Over Suggestions

It has now become clear that the state government had slept over the draft Disaster Management Policy of 2011 prepared by the Department of Revenue, Relief and Rehabilitation. Had the government taken appropriate and timely measures on the document, the devastation caused in Kashmir by the September floods could have been reduced significantly.

Drawing attention to past natural disasters in the state – the 2005 earthquake, the Waltengo blizzard, and flashfloods in Jammu – to illustrate its multiple vulnerabilities, and the fact that 13 out of the 100 districts designated as multi-hazard prone in India were in Kashmir, the draft had emphasized the need of making all bodies linked to disaster management functional within one year, implying that by 2012 the state should have been in a far better position to manage the aftermath of a calamity. But when the floods came two months ago, authorities could not even muster enough pumps to drain water out from submerged areas – the irony being the state employees’ inability to operate the pumps sent by neighboring states, and the fact that state-owned pumps intact at some locations had no fuel to run on.

Among other measures, the draft had stressed having Emergency Operation Centers in every district to pool resources and coordinate with the State Disaster Management Authority and subordinate bodies at the divisional and district levels. A top state government officer said that the draft would be implemented once the finance and revenue ministries clear it. This reflects that no one in the state is ready to accept responsibility for the devastation caused by the recent floods, or to call anyone to account. The public deserves to know why the state’s political executive has failed so miserably to get moving on measures direly critical for people’s lives and property