J&K Diary: J&K Floods: Disaster Nursed by Govt
The flooding in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is being described as the worst in last 60 years. About six lakh people are still believed to be trapped in flood-ravaged Srinagar and south Kashmir. Over 49,000 people have so far been rescued in a massive multi-agency operation but Lakhs are still stranded. Army has been working day and night-Two units of the Army and National Disaster Response Force teams have been airdropped in Pancheri, Udhampur, where 30 people are missing after a landslide hit the area. And close to 200 people have lost life in these floods.
The flood waters from the rivers Chenab and Tawi flooded Jammu region and, Rivers Jhelum and Indus have drowned Kashmir Valley causing loss to life and belongings. Till today no estimation of the damage has been made. Hundreds of villages have got submerged along with vast lands of standing crops and uncountable houses which have washed away or collapsed. No clear picture till now can be given.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declared it a national disaster and all possible support have been tendered to state government which has a big role and huge scope of blame for the disaster. The level of destruction is indeed proportional to the level of corruption in the governance. Had the corruption in the government not allowed illegal construction along the rivers, the situation today would have been less worrisome. Had there been accountability in the project works sectioned to remove encroachments on Wular and Dal Kake, and if the projects to deepen these lakes have had gone corruption free, the scale of the disaster surely could have been way below the present level. After all water needed place and with floods in these encroached area of Srinagar water rose as high as 50 feet.
Since years, there were several reports on the corruption in the administration and on nexus between political parties and land mafia, which allowed illegal construction even knowing the history of flooding in Jammu and Kashmir. According to a government report more than 5000 wetlands of Srinagar, Baramulla and Bandipora have been illegally occupied. More than 500 FIR of encroachments are registered by different government agencies in Valley only, but no actions whatsoever was taken.
Due to continuous illegal constructions in flood basin, many natural water discharge channels have been closed. One will see big shopping malls in the basin from Lasjan to Bemina and Naugam to Peerbaag, which once used to be main channels of flood control. So far crores have been spent to deepen the remaining flood channels but all on papers only.
Saviours of so called Kashmiriyat and caretaker of environment (when it comes to any Hindu pilgrimage), Hurriyat and alike, are letting Wular lake disappear. The same protesters who raised concerns over Kausarnag Pilgrimage which consisted of only 30 pilgrims never raised voice when Dal Lake shrunk dramatically (from hundreds of km to a few km) due to factors such as pollution, lotus cultivation and property encroachments. None of the separatist leaders like Syed Geelani came forward to save Valley from massive deforestation. The same separatists protested heavily for a 99 acres piece of barren land which was to be given to Sri Amarnath Shrine Board or when a pilgrimage to Kausarnag was to take place.
The whole of India is worried for J&K, Government is funding for relief operations and Army is working through day and night. In the wake of floods, the J&K government need to answer who permitted the constructers to raise structures on the river banks? Where have thousands of Crores meant for flood control policies gone?
All money that goes to J&K belongs to the people of India, but the Government in the Valley cannot be questioned following Article-370. Due to corruption and unaccountability in the administration of J&K, the level of this disaster is indeed a man made one and fear of such disasters would continue till this temporary article is removed.
Arvind (The writer is a researcher at J&K Study Centre, New Delhi)