Time for Flood Package is Over Now

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With Prime Minister Narendra Modi visiting J&K on November 7, there is once again a media build up to what he is going to announce or say on the day. One thing that looks certain now is the announcement of a financial package – some media reports have put it at Rs 1 lakh crore. But will it be a package for the larger development of the state – a sort of the bunching together of the budget allocations for the state over the next five years – or for flood rehabilitation? It is hard to tell. State Government has also not said much.  
The recent meeting between Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi also didn’t end the suspense. The official statement about it came as an even bigger letdown.  The mention of the demand for a flood package featured almost at the bottom of the statement.  “The issue of funding for carrying out the repair and restoration of damaged infrastructure in unprecedented floods of September 2014 also figured in the talks” the government spokesman passingly mentioned in the press release on the Modi-Mufti meeting. If anything, this shows how the state government too seems to have given up on the central aid for the flood victims. The official statement was issued with the apparent intent that it didn’t raise expectations, even though it did announce Modi’s visit to the state.
The government also stopped playing up the prospect of an imminent package from the centre. In the first months of the coalition, the state government had created package euphoria in the media every time PM visited. But it turned out to be an exercise in cry wolf. But such reports fool nobody now. From the looks of it, the state government doesn’t expect centre to come up with a flood-specific package. Hence, the conscious effort to play things down.
But the Government hardly needs to keep expectations low. The deluge is now more than fourteen months old. If any flood related aid had to come, it should have come within the first few months of the flood. Or, in a worst case scenario in the first year of the deluge. But the centre under Prime Minister Modi has chosen to do neither. Nor is there any sign that the New Delhi wants to grant even a reasonably good flood rehabilitation package to the state. The pessimism springs from the Modi led government’s cold approach towards the post-flood reconstruction effort in the state.  The centre didn’t respond to the state’s Rs 44000 crore demand. And later, the reports that New Delhi will extend a Rs 70,000 crore package during prime minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Jammu early this year also proved a hoax.
Will a package finally materialize? Nobody in the state is ready to bet. But while the package arrives and if at all it does arrive, the fallout of the deluge continues to play itself out across the Valley. The stalled rehabilitation has created a sense of vacuum on the ground. And among the many actors trying to address it, the state is the least effective. So far the new J&K government has been given a paltry Rs.1,667 crore for “short-term relief and reconstruction measures”, over and above what was released in the wake of the deluge last year. And even from this amount the Centre diverted Rs 500 crore from the State Disaster Response Fund to the Defence Ministry for carrying out the relief and rescue effort during flood.
Now PM is again coming to the state. But one thing is sure. Whatever package centre announces now,  it will not be for the flood reconstruction. Time for that is over now. The flood victims know that they have to fight it alone. And they are doing it admirably and valiantly.

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