Accusing the state government and the Centre of failing to rehabilitate victims of the devastating floods that submerged parts of Jammu and Kashmir exactly a year ago, the Kashmir Economic Alliance, a coalition of trade bodies, has called for a complete shutdown in the Valley on September 7.
After the deluge hit the Valley, the then Congress-National Conference government had sought a financial assistance of Rs 44,000 crore from the Centre for rehabilitating the victims. The Centre, however, rejected the proposal, saying that it had been prepared without any groundwork.
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The formation of the PDP-BJP alliance government had rekindled hopes for financial aid from the Centre. But, even six months after the new government came to power, a rehabilitation package is yet to be announced.
“From Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, everybody had promised that the flood victims will be compensated, but not a single promise was fulfilled,’’ said Kashmir Economic Alliance spokesperson Mohammad Yusuf Chapri.
“We believe this government should step down as they have failed to deliver on their promises,’’ he added.
Chairman of the Alliance, Showkat Chaudhary, said: “We will observe September 7 as a black day against the central government. There would be complete shutdown across Kashmir. When floods hit Kashmir, the international community offered to help. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi rejected it saying, they will help Kashmir. A year has passed, but the promise has not been fulfilled.”
The government, on its part, has maintained that rehabilitating flood victims is its priority. Soon after coming to power, leaders of PDP and BJP, including senior cabinet ministers, indicated that the Centre will announce a massive infrastructure package for the state. Even in its Agenda of Alliance, the coalition government stated: “The coalition government will take specific measures to ease day to day life which includes rehabilitation and relief of flood affected victims and their families.”
Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu also prepared a special development plan, asking for Rs 1,27,000 crore over five years. That plan, too, has been kept on hold.
“It is a work in progress,” J&K government spokesperson and Education Minister Nayeem Akhtar told The Indian Express. “Some part of the relief has been distributed, but we are aware that much still needs to be done,” he added.
BJP legislator and senior party leader Ramesh Arora said the government is working on “Rs 70,000 crore package” for the state. “Some of the amount has already been given. It is our priority to help the flood victims,’’ he said.
A senior PDP minister, however, admitted: “The delay is causing unrest among the people. We are hopeful the Centre will give us the funds we need.”
As per government estimates, 2,61,361 structures were damaged in the calamity. Of this, 21,485 were completely damaged. Official figures state that over Rs 300 crore has been given to affected families.
Running out of hope
Meanwhile, the flood-affected families are losing hope of any relief coming their way.
“We lost all our belongings and our home in the flood. I had high hopes that the state and Centre will compensate us, but we received only Rs 13,000. As the year has turned, the hope of rehabilitation has diminished. I have started taking loans from relatives to rebuild my house,’’ said Ghulam Mohammad Mir, who lives in Jawaharnagar.
Bemina resident Firdous Ahmad said: “I have been paid a compensation of a few thousand rupees because according to government guidelines my house is only partially damaged. My house is about to collapse and it would take me several thousands more than the compensation only to dismantle it. How can I rebuild it?”
For residents of Kanyari village in Sonawari, the calamity is yet to be over. A year after the floods hit the Valley, many houses in the hamlet are still under water—owing to the still high water level of the nearby Wular lake—and slowly crumbling.
For the residents of these houses, who now live in tiny ramshackle shacks, returning home is a dream.
They had pinned hopes on the Sayeed-led government that promised immediate rehabilitation of flood victims, but optimism has started making way for distrust now.
“It has been a long time since somebody (from the government) came to see us,” said Rafiqa Begum, who lives with her five daughters and a son in a rickety shack built of wooden poles and tin and tarpaulin sheets.
The Deluge And After
September 7, 2014: PM Narendra Modi visits Valley, announces aid of Rs 1,000 crore for victims of the floods in Kashmir and parts of Jammu.
October 11, 2014: The Omar Abdullah government asks Centre for rehab package of Rs 44,000 crore.
October 23, 2014: Modi visits Valley, announces a package of Rs 745 crore.
March 1, 2015: The PDP-BJP government is sworn in, promises to rehabilitate flood victims.
June 17, 2015: Centre announces additional aid of Rs 2,437 crore.
July 17, 2015: Modi visits Jammu, amid indications that he may announce a package of Rs 70,000 crore. However, no such announcement comes