Srinagar: The J&K High Court on Wednesday granted the Government of India two more weeks to disclose as to what happened to the Rs 44,000 crore financial package sought by the state government for relief and rehabilitation for last year’s flood victims.
The direction was passed by a division bench of Chief Justice N Paul Vasanthakumar and Justice Hasnain Masoodi after Assistant Solicitor General of India SA Makroo sought time to answer the Court’s query about the status of the package.
The Rs 44,000 crore proposal was submitted by the previous government led by Omar Abdullah after one of the worst floods in a century ravaged the Valley, killing nearly 300 people and damaging 261,361 structures.
Replying to a question during the March session of the state legislature, incumbent Minister for Relief and Rehabilitation Basharat Bukhari had said the relief package of Rs 43,959.56 crore also includes Rs 4,500 crore for affected business establishments.
Earlier in December last year, Joint Advisor National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Vinay Kajla had informed the High Court that soon after receiving the state government’s memorandum, an Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT) visited the state from 17 to 19 October for assessment of damages as per NDRF norms. “The report of the IMCT is in the final stage and would be submitted shortly,” he had said.
Out of the package, the state government had claimed that it had Rs 1,000 crore available under the State Disaster Response Fund while it had requested for Rs 1,926.11 crore from the National Disaster Response Fund and a special package of Rs 41,003.45 crore for items which were not covered by the norms of the National Disaster Response Fund.
Regarding the special package of Rs 41,003.45 crore, the NDMA had said that the proposal has already been sent to the Ministry of Finance and the Planning Commission and “the same is under consideration.” Since then, the Court has not been informed about it. However, in June this year, the Government of India announced a package of Rs 1,667 crore. Of that, Rs 500 crore was paid directly to the army for ‘rescue operations’ during the floods.
The Rs 1,667 crore package had disappointed victims, including residents and shopkeepers, who termed it ‘too little too late’. While a few eyebrows were raised, finance minister Haseeb Drabu told Kashmir Reader that the Rs 44,000 crore was “not a correct figure” and the announced package was a short-term measure. “It (Rs 44,000 crore) was an incorrectly formulated proposal. One of the components of the package included Rs 10,000 crore fiscal deficit of the government,” he had said. The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) later termed Drabu’s statement as a case of ‘grapes being sour’.
While the rehabilitation of victims remains a big challenge for the PDP-BJP government, Indian PM Narendra Modi’s announcement of a whopping Rs 1.25 lakh crore package for Bihar on Tuesday has put it in a tight corner.