Kashmir Floods: KCSDS Highlights Govt Apathy During Delhi Mission

SRINAGAR: Civil society’s advocacy group Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies (KCSDS) says the announcement of elections has hampered the process of relief and rehabilitation and added to the enormous hardships and miseries of the flood affected state.

KCSDS which had sent a four member delegation to Delhi to interact with various institutions and individuals to sanitize them about the crisis that floods left Kashmir in interacted with lawmakers, media persons and had a couple of chance meetings with some diplomats.

“The entire exercise was aimed at sensitizing the civil society in Delhi and try to interact with anybody who is interested in Kashmir,” Shakeel Qalander, one of the four members of the delegation said. “Apart from journalists, we met two opposition lawmakers K C Tyagi and A B Bardhan who have remained interested in Kashmir affairs throughout.”

Qalander said they had some interaction with some of the Middle East and European diplomats. Though a meeting with the US officials was fixed but it somehow did not take off and now we are told the US officials are visiting Kashmir to understand the impact of the floods on their own.”

Dr Mubeen A Shah, another member of the delegation said among other things the focus of the group was to seek some kind of facilitation for multi-lateral funding for rebuilding flood devastated Kashmir. “It is a long process and it will take many follow ups,” Dr Mubeen said. “We are meeting today and we may take some decisions on this front especially because we intend to brief some lawmakers before the Parliament sessions starts.”

Qalander said for managing some kind of policy intervention in Kashmir context on flood related issues, they may have to stay in touch with people in Delhi. “There are people who have lot of misconception about Kashmir on almost everything and the civil society will have to make its efforts to help them know the real ground situation,” Qalander said. “We can have some sort of focus on rebuilding Kashmir, once we work in Delhi.” Two other members of the delegation were its president Prof Hameeda Nayeem and Dr Javed Iqbal.

KCSDS has started working on the floods front by initially estimating the losses and later having detailed interactions with the government to suggest various measures.

The civil society groups believes that in last two months nothing much was done for providing relief, shelter and livelihood to the affected people except for disbursement of Rs 103.89 crore ($17.31 million) as ex-gratia among the affected people which is peanuts compared to a loss of Rs 100000 crore ($16 billion) or even compared to the financial package of 44000 Crores ($ 7.34 billion) demanded by the state government from the centre.

The announcement of elections, the group believes, has hampered the process of relief and rehabilitation and added to the enormous hardships and miseries of the flood affected state.

The group has drafted a detailed assessment of the flood related losses. Here are the details:

a) Fully/severely/partly damaged houses in flood submerged/affected areas: 300,000 [email protected] lac (average) =30,000 Crores ($ 5.000 bln)

b) Fully/severely/partly damaged shops, industrial units, hotels and other business enterprises: 100,000 [email protected] lac(avg.) =25,000 Crores ($ 4.167 bln)

c) Agriculture land with standing crops: 300,000 hcts @1 lac/hct = 3,000 Crores ($ 0.500 bln.)

d) Horticulture land along with fruit yield: 100,000 hcts. @2/-lac = 2,000 Crores ($ 0.334 bln)

e) Private Agro Forestry with trees: 100,000 [email protected] 1 lac /hct = 1,000 Crores ($ 0.167 bln)

f) Live Stock: 100,000 animals @10000/each = 100 Crores($ 0.017 bln)

g) Other allied agriculture sectors including floriculture/sericulture/saffron and others: = 400 Crores($ 0.067 bln)

h) Transport sector including private and public transport vehicles: 50000 Vehicles @1 lac/vehicle = 500 Crores($ 0.834 bln)

i) Losses to Contractors on account of washing away of “material at site”, works in progress etc = 500 Crores($ 0.834 bln)

j) Losses to Telecommunication system including the equipment, transmission lines, towers etc = 1,000 Crores($ 0.167 bk)

k) Losses to other miscellaneous sectors:= 1,500 Crores($ 0.250 bln)

l) Recurring business losses to various sectors of economy including trade, industry and service sectors including tourism on account of fixed establishment costs i.e interest, idle salary/wages, office expenses, loss of earnings etc = 10,000 Crores($ 1.667 bln

m) Loss to Public infrastructure like roads and bridges; hospitals; educational institutions; government buildings; flood channels and flood control system; public health engineering; power transmission and distribution system; forests, flora and fauna, wild life and other eco-system: =  25,000 Crores($ 4.167 bln)

J&K government, it is worth mentioning here, has also worked out the figures of 1 trillion rupees cumulative loss to the economy though their sector-wise evaluation of losses differ from KCSDS assessment. The Asian Development Bank puts the cascading effects of such disasters at 2.5 times of the physical losses as has been analysed by them in case of similar disasters across the globe including their post-flood assessment in Uttrakhand.

KCSDS believes that the Central Government has a principal role in managing the rebuilding of Kashmir. It is seeking multilateral and multipronged steps including the liberal financial package, policy interventions, debt waivers and soft loans. Here are the highlights of its demands from the central government:

a) Given that the capital of business community has got eroded and the property of salaried classes devastated, J&K state be declared as Free Economic Zone with tax holiday for a period of 20 years. All existing policies including PM’s Special Scholarship Scheme in education, Himayat, Uddan, Central Industrial Policy be revisited, strengthened and renewed for 20 years.

b) Adequate relief in the shape of ex-gratia need to be approved and released in favour of the flood affected people. We seek an ex-gratia payment of Rs 5.00 lacs to the family of persons who lost their lives in these floods and up to one lakh rupees to injured persons. Up to 20 lakhs rupees as ex-gratia relief should be approved and released in favour of affected people whose property and business was devastated and damaged by these floods.

c) Debt waiver up to Rs 5/- lacs across the board for agricultural, housing, business and  other loans.

d) 100% compensation of losses in agriculture crops, horticulture yields / livestock, transport and other sectors. Compensation of business losses for tourism, trade and industry for next 1 year.

At the same time, the group is seeking international aid be permitted to J&K for rebuilding process. Given the quantum of losses, the group says it might be difficult for the central government  to take up the task of  reconstruction and rehabilitation of around 50 lakh flood affected people in 20 districts out of a total of 22 districts in J&K. Therefore international aid by United Nations (UN), foreign countries, NGOs and individuals from across the globe should be allowed to flow into Kashmir as per the standard practice in the world during such disasters.

Besides the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other such global institutions shall have to be deeply involved for providing soft loans to rebuild infrastructure and business in the disaster hit state of J&K. Fresh infusion of credit to the business community with subvention of interest for entire repayment period on Working Capital Term Loan (WCTL) and converted Term loan. The government of India should approach multi-lateral institutions like ADB which can provide loans through different modes like ADB disaster risk management assistance where the loaning is at 1% interest and has a maturity of 40 years with a grace period of 10 years with repayment of principal at 2% a year for the first 10 years after the grace period and 4% after a year thereafter.

ADB after this assistance can have normal loaning which will have also interest of not more than 4-5% and the government can accordingly have interest subvention to that extent. Any danger of foreign exchange fluctuation can be hedged .

The group believes that victims of flood fury have a right of access to humanitarian aid and assistance under international convention and 1993-Vienna declaration pertaining to disaster management in any part of the world.

It has also been observed that individual donors keen to send relief through recognised NGOs face lot of difficulties in clearance of goods in the Customs department. To facilitate the quick reception and  transmission of any kind of relief by individual donors  from  foreign countries,  Customs rules need to be relaxed and   FCRA  granted  to the organisations for a period of at least three years without any  complicated official hassles.

On the health care front, the KCSDS asserts that Associated hospitals of government medical college have suffered a loss of Rs 217 crore in structure and stocks. The state government granted a only Rs 9 crore with a promise of additional nine crores. The tertiary care hospitals in Srinagar are in shambles including the multi specialty SMHS Hospital.  Lal Ded Maternity Hospital, SKIMS Medical College Hospital and G B Pant Pediatric care Hospital. Initially the civil society and some NGOs provided some basic items to these hospitals including beds, linen, I-V fluid and various types of medicine. Similarly the blood bank facilities were restored by private aid agencies by providing much needed freezers and refrigerators etc.

The group says the Post-Traumatic stress disorders is on rise in post flood scenario posing further challenges to already stressed citizenry.

Educational sector, the group believes was badly affected with most of the major schools submerged for days together even stretching to weeks. Now the challenge is how to resume class work of colleges and schools because the entire infrastructure has been destroyed.

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