Kashmir is not Bihar

While Kashmir’s appeals for the flood rehabilitation package have gone abegging over the past one year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a whopping Rs 1.25 lakh crore package for Bihar. This will be in addition to Rs 40,000 crore already allocated for the ongoing development projects in the state. Modi promised the package to the state during his address at an event in the state which he addressed within hours of his return from United Arab Emirates.

The package is obviously meant to turn the tables on the Bihar’s powerful Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in the run up to the high-stakes Assembly election in the state. On the contrary, Kashmir devastated by the deluge can wait. Those who lost their houses, livelihood in the unprecedented floods in September last can wait. An election for Modi is a far bigger priority than the urgent need to provide relief to the thousands of families reeling from the fallout of one of India’s biggest natural calamity.

People in Valley are still waiting for the Rs 44000 crore package sought by the pervious state government immediately after the flood. However, thanks to some planted leaks in the media by the state government, the package was supposed to have been enhanced by the centre to Rs 70,000 crore. And through it all, there have been several false expectations about the imminent release of the package which have been sorely belied. First, Modi was supposed to announce it on his visit to Jammu in July and then in his Independence Day speech. Both events came to pass but no aid materialized.

State has so far got a measly Rs 1667 crore package in June. Though centre has said it is sympathetically considering state government’s request on long-term measures to improve the flood-hit infrastructure, the question that people ask is that if not now then when. The Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has time and again assured the people who have lost their houses that they will be adequately compensated “before the onset of winter”. However, for the flood-hit people of the state, such assurances, of which there is no dearth since the deluge, hold little comfort value.

If the unconscionably inordinate delay in the release of the package is anything to go by, a colossal calamity in Kashmir hasn’t as much as been acknowledged as having even come to pass. On Kashmir, New Delhi  hasn’t even gone by the conservative damage assessment done by the World Bank. While the state government assessment undertaken immediately after the deluge pegged the loss at one trillion rupees, the World Bank slashed it to Rs 21000 crore. 

This approach is at a stark variance with New Delhi’s response to the June, 2013 floods in Uttarakhand where the first thing that the centre did was to get the damage professionally assessed. And in December 2013, that is within five months of the calamity, the centre announced a package of Rs 7346 crore. In case of Nepal, a foreign country, Government of India within the first two months of the earthquake pledged to provide 1 billion dollar for Nepal’s reconstruction over a period of five years. But in case of Kashmir, a great humanitarian tragedy has been trivialized. What is more, the state government appears helpless. The immediate and extraordinary response that the disaster of the proportion of September deluge calls for is sorely missing not only in the governance but also in the political discourse of the state. So far, the victims of the flood have had to make do with only Chief Minister’s assurances. 

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