Industry chieftain and social activist Shakeel A Qalander who was part of the civil society delegation has told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that people sailing out of floods were shocked to get BSNL bills and Income Tax notices. He also stated that delayed relief measures has created anger on ground and Delhi must facilitate low cost multilateral debts for rebuilding flood hit Kashmir.
After meeting the Prime Minister, KCSDC has released the memorandum that it submitted to him in a meeting that was also attended by various others NGOs. The memorandum is reproduced here:
“We take this opportunity to introduce KCSDS as a research and advocacy civil society formation in Kashmir which has drawn members from all walks of life in order to have a holistic vision about a healthy and prosperous society in harmony with fragile eco system and clean environment. The formation is comprised of academicians, doctors, lawyers, economists, writers, engineers, businessmen and the like. We submit the following memorandum for your serious attention and the action thereof in the aftermath of worst ever devastating floods in our living memory.
1. After witnessing the gross negligence of powers that be in averting the impact of colossal catastrophe, the unprecedented delay in relief and rehabilitation measures is quite disturbing and infuriating to say the least. The interim relief of Rs 1000 Crores announced by you on 8th September in Srinagar is yet to be received by the state government. The civil society impresses upon the central government to expedite the process of compensation of losses to the flood affected people.
2. As per initial assessment, the economy of the state is down by over one trillion rupees with 2.5 times cascading effects. The magnitude of challenge to reconstruct Kashmir demands multilateral and multipronged steps including the liberal financial package, policy interventions, debt waivers and soft loans. Whereas the private property, crops, fruits, livestock, merchandise, transport etc need to be fully or adequately compensated, the business losses to trade and industry including tourism industry requires to be paid for next 1 year for sustained livelihood and employment.
3. Looking at the magnitude of losses, it may be difficult for the central government to take up the task of reconstruction and rehabilitation of around 50 lakh flood affected people. Therefore international aid by United Nations (UNO),foreign countries, NGOs and individuals from across the globe besides world bank, Asian Development Bank and other such institutions should be allowed to flow into Kashmir as per the standard practice in the world during such disasters.
4. KCSDS advocates the creation of a State Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority comprising of state agencies, civil society actors, NGOs, donors and the like who are involved in this task. Apart from collecting funds and aid from all sources, the authority be authorised to approve expenditures on relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation besides managing, monitoring and regulating this process.
5. To facilitate the quick reception and transmission of any kind of relief by individual donors from foreign countries, FCRA restrictions be waved off /removed/ relaxed for a period of at least three years.
6. The recent floods have exposed the lopsided infrastructural development in the state. The flood control system, PHE, electric transmission and distribution system, bridges, roads, hospitals, educational institutions, offices and other such public infrastructure became the first causality in floods. The immediate breakdown of the telecommunication and internet services put a question mark on such services in Kashmir. Whereas in every state there is a POP system in place which helps vertical reception of communication through satellite, our state is the only one which receives it through ground from Chandigarh. The current breakdown of communication system makes it imperative for the government to put POP system in place in Srinagar to facilitate quick Communication system which can also stand the vagaries of weather. Besides, adequate funding for public infrastructure need to be ensured not only through additional financial assistance from the centre but also through long term interest-free loans from World Bank and ADB.
7. Life in most parts of the state in the month of September came to a grinding halt with no human activity or services in place except cries for rescue and relief. However, it is highly deplorable that telecom companies including BSNL forced the subscribers to pay bills for the month. Banks unethically recovered interest for the month of September. The Srinagar unit of Income Tax department crossed all limits of insensitivity by issuing hundreds of notices to the deluged traders and individual tax payers from their camp office at Jammu while their own office in Srinagar was also submerged in flood waters. The crass unethical actions by above institutions have tremendously infuriated the public. Besides, Air India that had offered to carry relief material to JK free of cost has stopped free service which needs to be looked into and extended for at least next 1 year.
8. There are rumours doings the rounds that the Election Commission of India may announce the state elections on time irrespective of the current enormous hardships and miseries of the flood affected state. Good or bad, at the present juncture, the state administration needs to be whole-heartedly focus on catering to the needs of the hungry and the homeless and rebuilding the devastated huge infrastructure of the state. Burdened with additional responsibilities of election process, bureaucracy especially at district administrative level, would be hard pressed to perform the twin jobs—election process and flood relief which will leave people in lurch as electioneering will take precedence over everything else. Besides, the displaced people cannot participate in the process. The overwhelming majority considers holding of elections at present juncture equivalent to rubbing salt on their wounds as is apparent from social media feedback as well.
9. Last but not least we demand a high level judicial probe into the causes of flood, the criminal negligence of the warnings given in 2010 by flood control department and fix responsibilities. Most people who were neck deep in water or up to waist line said the water was ice cold. There is a strong perception in public that some glacier has melted somewhere which hugely got mixed with rain waters and lead to the unprecedented flash floods. This needs to be looked into on priority basis by the government as too much human interference in recent years in the pristine glacial areas has already lead to glacial warming. Nobody could stop the vagaries of Nature but government could considerably lessen its impact on people by plugging the loopholes in advance and by taking necessary measures to deal with flash floods. On the contrary there are various stories doing the rounds about how some political persons’ intervention actually caused the submersion of the city by delaying the opening of the gates of flood channel at Kandizal. There is an absolute necessity to probe all the omissions and commissions in a time bound frame of three months to fix responsibilities and prosecute those guilty of negligence and interference.
Sir, this is a testing time for the central government to prove its sincerity and solidarity with the affected people of the state in substantial terms. We hope that the people of the state are not left in lurch and are provided necessary relief and rehabilitation package without any further delay.”