Intro : Now it has been forgotten that the UPA Government did nothing regarding the reports of flood threats given by the central agencies. What is often repeated is the magic figure of 44,000 crore!
When people woke up in the morning, on September 7 in the Kashmir Valley last year, they found themselves marooned. Knee deep, neck deep, and others found themselves riding the flood waters.
It was a spectacle beamed soon across the world, on television sets as reporter after reporter, reported the event. It was the locals, familiar with the terrain, and streets, nooks and corners, who took the lead. The Army was there to put in an effort, unmatched and unparalleled. The Air Force pitched in, in a major way. It was first rescue as helicopters flew sorties to extract sick, and the old, or children to scared to do anything. The Army Aviation Corps helicopters too were there for the people.
Soon, relief material poured in from everywhere in Bharat, and rushed to Srinagar, the summer capital. Private airlines charged nothing for relief material sent into Kashmir as cargo.
One year down the event, has the government of the day even started taking corrective steps? The unfortunate answer is yes, and no. The government is busy in projecting demands for flood relief to the Central government.
Projecting demands for flood relief funds is the primary focus of the government. Can it do something else besides? Yes, for a start, it can start removing encroachments on a war footing from water bodies, flood spill channels, and educate people about the urgency of these measures.
Somehow, the coalition government headed by Mufti Mohammed Sayeed has given an impression that the Centre has to do more, for the flood affected. This is more to do with the strains of coalition politics rather than genuine concerns.
In 2010, the then PHE, Irrigation & Flood Control minister, Mr Taj Mohiuddin, of the Congress, sought Rs 2,200 crore from the Centre. The Central government was then led by Mr Manmohan Singh. Mr Mohiuddin pleaded with the Centre that floods, on a massive scale, were due in Kashmir, given its past history, and their periodicity. He virtually told everyone, who was willing to listen. He cajoled the Centre, argued with Central Government officials. But soon understood that he was being cold shouldered, and his pleas were being ignored.
All he received in lieu of his demands from Mr Manmohan Singh was a princely sum of less than Rs 100 crore (a little above Rs 97 crore. Yes, Rs 97 crore only when he had sought Rs 2,200 crore for flood protection measures.
There the things rested. Till the 2014 floods hit the Kashmir Valley, and people started talking that Mr Mohiuddin may had been right. What was the reason Mr Mohiuddin failed to convince the Central Congress leadership of the genuineness of his demand?
Why then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, of the National Conference, did not back his Congress colleague Taj? Why he did not take up the issue with Rahul Gandhi, or Sonia Gandhi, to mount pressure on Manmohan?
Mr Abdullah did not support his colleague Taj. He did not help the latter to mobilise any funds from the internal resources, for urgent flood protection measures. In short, Omar took Taj as crying the proverbial wolf, but when the wolf (floods) actually hit the Valley, he was totally lost.
As luck would have it, Mr Mohiuddin lost his department to Mr Sham Lal Sharma, of Akhnoor in January 2013. There was a cabinet reshuffle, result of a power struggle between Ghulm Nabi Azad and Saifuddin Soz factions. This, in a way, proved lucky for Taj as people in Kashmir blamed Mr Sharma, a Jammuite, for not doing enough for Kashmir.
The most unfortunate part of it all was that this injected the venom of communalism, into the discourse. It is another point that perhaps Mr Mohiuddin could have done perhaps only marginally better. On September 7, the Valley observed a hartal against the Central government allegedly for not doing enough for rehabilitation of flood victims. Some organisations said that the Centre should immediately give Rs 44,000 crore to J&K for the flood victims.
Undoubtedly, this sum is a colossal amount. It definitely is not a figure to be trifled with. If a comparision is needed, this figure is more than Rs 42,000 crore kept in reserve for buying fighter aircraft for the nation’s security!
The figure of Rs 44,000 crore is in itself of interesting origin, and very doubtful pedigree. This was the figure, the sum, sought by the National Conference-Congress coalition Government from the Centre led by the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. After the floods hit Kashmir, and elections were held for the state legislative assembly, it was the figure projected by the outgoing government!
Since winning the elections, by hook or by crook, promising the moon to the electorate was what was resorted to by the NC led by Omar, and the Congress.
The calculations, of the hard nosed official variety, don’t appear to have been done before projecting this figure. It would be a disservice to the flood victims to say that this figure is inflated, imaginary or question its basis. They have suffered and deserve better, undoubtedly.
Somehow, this figure of Rs 44,000 crore has stuck in the collective discourse of some sections, rather a very large section, of the Valley. So, it is imperative, according to these sections, for Modi to prove that he is not anti-Muslim by offering a relief package bigger, and better than this figure. Or else be condemned, once and for all. Either way, he is damned. He is damned if he somehow mobilises this sum, Rs 44,000 crore, giving it to J&K. And he is also damned if he does not pay this amount.
This is a collective trap laid by the NC and the Congress for the PDP-BJP Government in the State. And for the Central Government, the stridency of collective demands by the NC and the Congress can only be expected to rise in the coming days.
Now it has been forgotten that the Manmohan Singh’s Government did nothing regarding the reports of flood threats given by the central agencies. What is often repeated is the magic figure of 44,000 crore!
This is how a discourse, with huge political overtones, is being built. And that is on. With more than a little help from separatists. Adding fuel to the fire!
Sant Kumar Sharma (The Writer is Jammu based