Do Not Wait

Chief Engineer Irrigation & Flood Control is taking the society far granted the same way it did with a furious Jhelum. On Friday when every other head of the department made public their achievements of restoring the services, he skipped the press meet. But this engineer can not be singled out.

As the society and the government is counting the trillion rupees loss inflicted by the floods, the situation is still grim. It requires lot of effort and time to have some semblance of the normalcy that Kashmir had till the first week of September.

While every department is putting in best efforts – PHE and PDD much better than others, there is a requirement of reviewing the issues that were directly linked to the floods. Was there any compromise in standard operations procedure (SOP) in managing the floods, were there issues starkly visible in mismanaging rescue and brazenly bad practices in relief measures? Even policy directly linked to housing, river management and drainage need to a review.

This catastrophe has a job cut out for the next government. The task is so huge that it has already started scaring political parties. But to get to the gamut of all the linked issues, the situation requires a bigger effort – a major team of specialists from relevant fields need to be set up. It is not necessary that it will be formally designed as a commission of enquiry or to be presided over by a judge. It must be a representative transitional structure lacking any politician but including the society that will identify the grey areas which failed Kashmir, perhaps for the first time in history.

This fault-finding group must identify the people, groups and agencies that contributing in rescue and relief operations. If a society does not formally recognize the services of its people within and outside the system, it lacks the potential of emerging better in the overwhelming situations. Since this is a calamity and no earthly power can be accused of triggering it, the government should not have any problem in setting up this initiative. It should in fact seek suggestions from the society in nominating the people to this group that will investigated the flows, analyze policies and, possibly, offer some suggestions for the government to work.

This also is not a fact that once Jhelum started flowing into the city, everybody worked very well. There have been hundreds of individuals and in certain cases institutions too, that went into a long drive for fishing in troubled waters. There were people who fleeced, looted the affected lot. There were parasites of this society which closed the doors at the worst time of the contemporary history. They might not be punished but they must be identified and it has to be public knowledge.

Relief apart, the government has been counting the flood-dead and these are people who drowned or were washed away. That is gross injustice. Apart from the listed, there are three categories of people who died. Firstly, who died of cardiac arrest simply because they could not reconcile with the fact that they are in water. Secondly, patients in SMHS and the GP Pant hospital who died because the life support was choked by the situation the facilities landed in. And finally, the youth who worked tirelessly in rescue and relief and then died, soon after.

Let the government not given them the ex-gratia relief but what is the harm in recognizing their services. After all they died for the sake of others. What is the harm in issuing a list of brave people and giving them state bravery awards? It does not require any huge resource that we must seek from Delhi. If we have the will, we will have the way.

Good governments do not claim the credit for everything. They give their society the share of credit they deserve.

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