No Lessons Learnt

These days whenever it starts raining Kashmir, everyone starts feeling tense. The worry is not unfounded. Having seen the worst floods in recent memory in Kashmir in Sep 2014, people in the valley have become extra anxious. There are definite reasons why a rainfall in Kashmir these days has become a cause for worry for people. The last year’s floods in the valley were of great magnitude and caused immense damage to property and infrastructure. People remained inundated, caged within their houses for many days. Houses collapsed, shops were flooded with loss to hundreds crores worth of goods and other property. In South Kashmir’s Anantnag, Kulgam and Pulwama districts, these floods caused major damage to standing crops and apple orchards. In fact the floods started in South Kashmir first and as this water started flowing towards Srinagar, it caused major damage in the capital city as well.

The previous NC-congress coalition Govt was ruling the state when these devastated floods hit the valley. Everyone in the State knows how miserably the Govt failed in the rescue and relief operations during the floods. In fact the victims were left to fend for themselves. It was the courage of common Kashmiris and the societal camaraderie that helped in the rescue and relief operations for the victims. The people witnessed the fact the Govt and its administrative evaporated in thin air when people needed it the most. Unfortunately not much has changed since.

The victims of those floods have not been properly rehabilitated. The State Govt’s proposal of Rs 44000 crore of central assistance has been flatly refused by the central Govt and instead the State has been allotted a paltry sum of Rs 1600 crore. As people in the valley, especially the flood victims are slowly crawling to rebuild their lives, fresh flood threats have kept them on their toes. First it was at the beginning of April this year when it rained incessantly. Jhelum river was flowing to the brim, but luckily the rains stopped in time and the valley was saved of yet another catastrophe. In the last few days, the skies have again opened up in the valley. Just after a day’s rainfall, a few places in South Kashmir have witnessed floods, while the threat of a flood in Srinagar, though reduced, can’t be ruled out. People have begun to realize that Kashmir has become more vulnerable to floods now. A cursory look at constructions around river banks, flood channels, filled up water bodies and a non-existent drainage system are enough pointers as to why Kashmir has become so vulnerable to floods now. It is a man- made disaster, the result of human greed, administrative corruption and Govt indifference and apathy.

Despite paying a huge price last year, nothing seems to have changed in the State. The new Govt has not taken any major initiative to stem this crisis. It hasn’t taken any concrete steps towards demolition of illegal structures, setting up a modern drainage system or desilting of rivers and flood channels. Unless the State Govt and the society realizes the gravity of the situation and begins to work in right earnest in improving it, Kashmir will continue to remain vulnerable to floods.

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