Mere 300 SDRF cops deployed in Kashmir to tackle disasters

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Srinagar:  In the name of much-hyped State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), the government has mere 300 odd cops deployed across Kashmir to tackle any calamities like earthquakes or floods, though the Valley has already had a bitter experience of such catastrophes.
This is the state of government preparedness towards disasters in the region, which falls in seismic Zone-5, the rating which is highest for vulnerability to disastrous earthquakes.
Officials said the SDRF has presence of mere 20 cops in each district, though this much of workforce is even not enough for area falling under individual police stations.
Sources in the Home Department said much against the need for two full-fledged battalions dedicated for this specialized task,  mere one battalion, which is already running short of staff has been put to work. Same holds true for Jammu region.
Official documents reveal that in February 2012, the government vide Order No. 159(HG)-Home of 2012 dated 21-02-2012,  ordered conversion of two existing Battalions of Auxiliary Police as Jammu & Kashmir State Disaster Response Force (SDRF).
Each such battalion is based in the twin regions of Jammu and Kashmir. However, there are deficiencies even within the battalions.
The battalion based in Kashmir is already understaffed. Sources said much against the sanctioned strength of 1000 odd cops in the battalion, there were mere 650 of them presently on rolls.
But even this limited-number is not fully dedicated for the disaster preparedness. “Around 300 of them in the battalion are into administrative duty of running the office affairs and thus only the remaining number of cops is into field job,” explained the official in the Home department, asking not to be named.
Sources said a major reason for the failure of the SDRF in September 2014 floods was scarcity of workforce. “Basically the number of  SDRF cops deployed in all districts is even not enough to cater to on district,” said an official then posted in the SDRF.
Given the bitter experience of the floods, he said, the SDRF would continue to be a symbolic force unless the number of cops is adequately strengthened. “Given the previous experience, there’s a dire need of around 400 such cops in every district of the Valley,” said a retired police official.
Sources said even though the proposal to augment the workforce was floated from time to time, there has been no breakthrough.
The disaster preparedness has emerged as a serious public concern for the past around a week since news hogged the headlines that a US-based university sounded alert that an earthquake of 8.0 or above on the Richter scale can hit the state anytime.
On May 19 Oregon State University in the US said a major earthquake, of magnitude 8 or greater, may strike Jammu and Kashmir, endangering the lives of as many as a million people.
Scientists have found that the Riasi fault in Jammu province has been building up pressure for some time, suggesting that when it does release or “slip,” the resulting earthquake may be large – as much as magnitude 8.0 or greater.
Prompted by the alarm, on May 26, Governor NN Vohra shot an SOS to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti asking her to take immediate cognizance and issue firm directives to “each and every stakeholder” to forthwith start preparing for dealing with a deadly earthquake.
Additional Director General of Police, LT Mohanty, who heads the SDRF said he was not the right person to comment on the issue. “This is my temporary charge … You kindly contact SP Wahid Sahib, he will be able to give details,” the ADGP told Kashmir Observer. (To be concluded)

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