The opposition National Conference (NC) was in power when the 2014 deluge hit Kashmir. NC general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar talked to Moazum Mohammad about the floods and blamed the PDP-BJPs ‘weak’ government for failing to pursue the rehabilitation package with the central government.
How did your government arrive at the Rs 44,000 crore figure?
We did so after a thorough survey and assessment of damages and losses in all sectors. The report was attested by Commissioners and okayed by the Cabinet. Later, our government submitted the report to the Government of India.
The PDP-BJP government said the figure was flawed…
The Finance Minister’s exposed himself on the floor of the House saying that he didn’t like the report personally. But he also said he had no alternative but to follow it. What does that mean? If that package was not factually correct, why did he say he has no alternative but to pursue it? We submitted the report and a group of ministers met the Prime Minister and he said that the package would be considered.
We insisted that elections should be delayed and rehabilitation should be the priority. Perhaps, we would not have to face the crisis today if our suggestion was heeded. The PDP wanted to rehabilitate the flood victims after coming to power. But what have they done? Nothing.
So you only blame the present government?
This is a weak government. It’s not pursuing things with the central government the way it should have, even as our case is strong. Many states were hit by floods but the rehabilitation process was done within three months.
Unfortunately, the central government is also not doing its job and the state government has completely failed to pursue the case. The Government of India is sending a wrong signal to our Muslim majority state. Why are they ignoring the people? Even after a year, nothing has been given to affected people. Modi wanted to send assistance to the other part of Kashmir. But he has not fulfilled his promise to India’s part of Kashmir. It’s a tragedy.
What role have you played as the Opposition?
We met the authorities and held a massive demonstration led by Omar Abdullah in Lal Chowk. We made the government aware about the suffering and hardships of people. But this government doesn’t listen and it may be due to be some political considerations that the relief package is not being sanctioned.
In my opening remarks at the Srinagar District Board meeting, I told Mufti Sahib ‘you are chief minister because of the tragedy’. We lost five seats in Srinagar because of the floods. I conveyed to him what sort of help was needed by flood victims. Repeatedly, the CM gave commitments, but failed to keep his word.
The government claims six-months are not enough to judge its performance…
They joined the coalition to attain power. See, they compromised on every issue such as AFSPA, return of power projects, state flag and West Pakistan Refugees. Even the Deputy Chief Minister wants to do away with J&K’s special status. On July 13, which is our national day, the ministers boycotted the function. At that time, Mr Mufti had no right to stay in power. They did a u-turn on every political issue.
The Mirwaiz-led amalgam constructed damaged houses. NC is the oldest political party, what role did your party play?
When we were in the government, we tried our best. Whatever was possible, Omar Sahib did it. We strongly raised the issue of flood rehabilitation in the state assembly. Omar Abdullah suggested that an All-Party Delegation should approach the central government on the rehabilitation issue. Our people worked at the district headquarters level and did their best. Whatever was possible within our domain, we did it individually.
How much money did your government distribute after the floods?
At that time, we had Rs 1,100 crore under the State Disaster Management scheme. Immediately, we rebuilt infrastructure including bridges, distributed free ration for 6-months and cheques to flood affected people. We did what was possible. Maybe people had a lot of expectations because of the magnitude of devastation.
But, also, we couldn’t do much because of the imposition of the model code of conduct during the elections.
What was the Modi government’s response after the floods?
Quite positive. He conveyed to our ministers that it was a matter of time as to announcing the package. Even though we knew the central government would give money to the new government, we only wanted that the affected people should get their due.