Winter Shelter

With upcoming Assembly elections in the state on the top of the Government of India’s priorities and the state and central administrative machineries preoccupied in preparing for them, post-flood rehabilitation in the Valley has taken a backseat to polls.

In their untold cost, the devastating floods of September have also left thousands of families homeless, many permanently. Families with partially-damaged but safe-to-live-in houses have moved back. Some have found shelter with relatives, friends, acquaintances or neighbours. And according to official figures, more than 15,000 families are living under tarpaulin tents. This, at the onset of winter, when night temperatures have already dropped significantly.  Given the season’s severity over the past few years, such families face the prospect of enormous hardships and unbearable cold in tents which are not insulated even.

Though, on visiting Kashmir, the Prime Minister of India announced Rs 565 crore for rebuilding damaged houses, not a single penny out of this has reached the sufferers so far, and it is not clear whether the funds have been delivered to the state administration. The only relief some of these families have been given (by the state government) is Rs 3,800 for those with partially-damaged, and Rs 75,000 for those with fully-damaged, houses. This would not even suffice to clear debris, or put up a makeshift shed for survival.

Since meaningful construction would be almost impossible within the very limited period of dry and relatively conducive weather available, these families have little hope of proper protection against cold, rain and snow even with the reconstruction relief promised by the Prime Minister.

The onus, therefore, seems to have shifted to the community again. As during the floods, when rescue and relief was almost entirely a community effort, so, it appears, must it be after the floods. With New Delhi moving painfully slowly, and the state government sojourning in Jammu, it is the community that will have to rise to the occasion once more to make arrangements to see these thousands of families through the winter months.