Almost three months after devastating floods, tents meant to shelter victims remain unaccounted for in Pampore. With official passing the buck people are forced to look heavenwards for help. Safwat Zargar reports
Officials tasked with distribution of compensation cheques are experiencing a difficult time in south Kashmir’s Pampore town. Dozens of affected families are returning relief cheques to the government treasury, citing the amount of relief as “inadequate” as a result of “flawed damage survey.”
This is not the only complain. Locals allege that there was “favoritism” in assessing damages. Others claim the “indifferent attitude” of the Tehsildar in Pampore town has left them hopeless.
“I don’t want their compensation. First, the government was nowhere during two weeks of submerging and now they are paying us these petty cheques to reconstruct our house,” says Mehraj-ud-Din Bhat, whose three-storey house, shared by his two brothers and their families, has developed cracks all over and the floor has sunk in.
According to reliable sources, the relief management in Pampore is being managed by some “tainted” officials. One such employee is Murwat Hussain, who is Naazir in Tehsil Pampore. Informed sources say that Murwat is close to some political party and has been reinstalled after facing suspension for a long period of time. When reinstalled it was mentioned in his service book that he should not be given any responsibility which involves money, sources add.
“It is a hub of corruption. All the things are managed by Murwat and even the Tehsildar can’t stop him. It’s a gang of some 10-20 people,” says a local, wishing anonymity. “Nobody is helping us.”
“This is a perfect example of rubbing salt on wounds,” says Mushtaq Ahmad, a mason, who lives in Drangbal. Due to floods, Mushtaq’s multi-storey concrete house has slightly tilted by six inches. “I am a mason myself and I know the market. How are 3800 rupees enough to reconstruct a crumbling house? That’s why I rejected their compensation.”
In post-flood rehabilitation phase, the government has created three categories of damages – total collapse, severe damage and partial damage – to the residential houses against which the payment is made. According to the government norms, a totally collapsed house owner is paid an amount of 75000 rupees, while as a severely damaged house is compensated with 12600 rupees. Partial damages are catered with a small amount of 3800 rupees.
Official sources in the revenue department confirm that in case of further assistance ordered by the government for flood victims, it will be distributed according to the previous estimates.
“We fail to understand; how is a Tehsildar or a revenue official qualified for assessing damages to a building? It’s the job of engineers,” says Manzoor Ahmad, a local resident.
According to the Red Cross Clerk, Pulwama, Mohammad Yusuf Bhat, hundred tents have been sent to Pampore town. “As per norms, a tent is given to a family whose house has totally collapsed due to floods.”
Refuting this, locals of Drangbal say, the area is most affected and more than a dozen houses have collapsed in the area, but nobody has received a tent.
One of the local residents, Rouf Ahmad whose house collapsed due to floods didn’t receive any tent. Currently, Rouf, a driver, is living in a single room at his neighbour’s, along with his wife and three children. With their houses destroyed, three-to-five families of the area are currently living in the government quarters of EDI.
Since last month, residents of Drangbal Pampore have visited all the government offices for redress of their grievances. A week ago, when the locals tried to stage a demonstration outside the Tehsildar office, no official was present in the department.
“What can an officer do if the government has created three categories for damage assessment? I am just following my orders,” says Abdul Rehman, Tehsildar Pampore.
On being asked about the management of relief distribution by “tainted” officials, Rehman says “Murwat is a local. Though he is a clerk, he has helped a lot in distribution of relief material. There might be some personal animosity between locals and him. If anybody has a complain (s)he can come to my office in person.”
According to Tehsildar, 12 villages have been affected in Pampore tehsil. Pampore town was submerged on September 5 when one of the breaches occurred in Jhelum bund near Drangbal. The worst-hit was Drangbal, followed by Kadlabal, Frestbal and slightly at height Namblabal. However, the residents allege that relief was distributed to least affected areas first. Locals of Drangbal say “they have been ignored deliberately and there is nobody to whom they can turn to.”
“We have only received 80 kilograms of rice since last three months, nothing more,” says Bashir Ahmad, a local.
With elections dominating the administrative atmosphere in the valley, there have been several reports of “mismanagement” of relief work undergoing in the flood hit areas.
Informed sources told Kashmir Life that Additional Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar, who is in-charge of the stock centre of relief material created at Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) Pampore, has kept the keys of the store with a truck driver. Sources add it’s the truck driver who makes the gate pass for the vehicle and ferries truck loads of relief material from the store.
Meant for the homeless flood victims, more than 300 tents of one category and 70-80 tents of larger size worth 80,000 rupees each are locked in the store.