Disaster (Un)Preparedness

I Almost three years have elapsed since the cataclysmic floods of 2014 hit Kashmir. The floods were so devastating and severe that it is a miracle that these did not exact a toll in terms of lives lost. This intense fury of nature was dealt with great resilience and stoicism by the people of Kashmir without any support by the administration. In fact, the administrative architecture of the state was washed away with the floods; people had no choice but to fend for themselves. What was remarkable about the whole flood saga was how the people of Kashmir comported themselves; it was all very admirable. But, three years after the floods, have any lessons been learned by the administration or power political classes of Kashmir? This is a question that the Jammu and Kashmir High Court has posed to the administration in response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL). Both, on the face of it and from a deeper level and perspective, the administration is disastrously unprepared to deal with a repeat of the 2014 flood like situation. If, God forbid, a similar situation arises in Kashmir, it will be disastrous. There is only so much people can do by themselves. Essentially, it is the administrative framework, its assets and techniques that should be the first line of defense for coping up with natural disasters. But in Kashmir, this is not to be. The administration is as complacent as it is lackadaisical toward any future contingency. The question is: why have not lessons been learnt? The answers might lie in bureaucratic inertia and ineptitude, corruption, under resourcedness and lack of capacity in dealing with natural disasters, corruption and complacency by the power political class. The 2014 floods, ideally, should have concentrated minds and brought focus to the administration in terms of future contingencies like this but, alas, things continue to be the same. In some senses, this state of affairs is broadly reflective of the state of governance and administration in Kashmir-defined by inefficiencies and ridden by corruption as these are. But given the consequences of a repeat of a 2014 like flood situation, omissions and commissions by the administration and the general unpreparedness amounts to almost criminal negligence. If the 2014 floods did not or could not induce a rethink and formulation of new approaches, what, the question may be asked, would?