Srinagar: What is your stand on flood relief? A division bench of Chief Justice N Paul Vasathakumar and Justice Bansi Lal Bhat asked Assistant Solicitor General of India SA Makroo, while hearing a Public Interest Litigation on relief and rehabilitation of last year’s flood victims.
“Now you are celebrating one year anniversary and still you are undecided,” the bench said, as Makroo urged it to grant two weeks time for disclosing the stand of government of India on Rs 44,000-cr financial assistance sought 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.
“No. Not two weeks,” the bench replied and also asked Makroo about the policy adopted by the Modi-led government for distribution of relief to flood victims.
“Where is the old policy regarding distribution of the relief? It is to be produced before the court,” the bench said and directed Makroo to submit compliance report on Thursday (September 10).
“On that day, the policy for grant of relief formulated prior to 1 April 2015 shall be filed,” the bench added.
Replying to a question during the March session of the state legislature, relief and rehabilitation minister Basharat Bukhari had said that the financial assistance of Rs 43,959.56 crore also includes Rs 4,500 crore for the affected business establishments.
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 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”.