Just the other day, the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, convened a meeting to review disaster management preparedness in the Kashmir division including in Leh and Kargil.
The meeting which saw participation of many departmental heads also witnessed presence of the Deputy Commissioners of all the districts that come under Kashmir zone. The Div Com it is believed informed the participants that Rs. 3 Crore has been released to all Deputy Commissioners for procurement of blankets and other necessary items while as satellite phones are being installed in Srinagar, Pulwama, and Budgam for communication purposes in case of emergency situations.
He directed the Deputy Commissioners to prepare an inventory of resources, including men, machinery, and boats available from every Department in their respective districts with location of control room and details of village level committees within two days.
Besides, the officials were told to prepare 300 volunteers for disaster management training in their respective districts. All the DCs were directed to identify locations for helipads, where helicopters can land in case of any eventuality for necessary evacuation and relief purposes.
The various government departments like Mechanical, Health, PHE, SMC, R&B, PDD, I&FC, SDRF, Fire & Emergency services and other concerned departments were asked to provide information like details of dewatering pumps, number of doctors, ambulances, paramedical staff, water tankers, total water supply schemes, NGOs working for disaster management, food, gas and kerosene stock, district wise food stores, fair weather road information, availability of gensets, sand bags, regulating traffic in adverse weather conditions and details of volunteers by August 14 so that a comprehensive plan is formulated.
However, all these cosmetic measures apart, the officials need to be reminded that Kashmir Valley which faced a mammoth deluge in September 2014 is still harping for some miracle to happen so that in case of any eventuality people may be able to escape the nature’s fury.
What is a stark reality is that the government has failed to delve on ways to handle disasters despite the fact that the state is vulnerable to natural calamities including earthquakes. Hope that the state government machinery remembers the October 2005 quake that hit north Kashmir.
The Disaster Management Cell in the Divisional Commissioners office has been set up to tackle disasters. However, the government has no disaster management policy in place as the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) and its offshoots at divisional and district levels are headed by ministers, MLAs and bureaucrats while experts have been sidelined.
We can easily claim that the state government’s policy to handle disasters is limited to paper only.
The Chief Minister is heading the SDMA while Cabinet ministers and bureaucrats are its members. What will they do at the time of crisis? There should be inclusion of experts in such bodies who can help in meeting such challenges.
It is an open secret that the disaster management is completely missing in Jammu and Kashmir. The state is not well equipped to deal with any catastrophic situation. We are not raising fingers but the government should own the responsibility as it alone needs to be blamed as it has miserably failed in capacity building.