For the last five weeks, nature has enforced the only priority on J&K – to manage the devastation of the floods that incidentally were historic. Tens of thousands of houses disappeared as more than 1.5 million families are directly affected. It requires lots of efforts for many years to rebuild what is already lost.
There are various groups which are busy in relief and hopefully rehabilitation will soon take over. The government and its various agencies are major spenders on the relief front.
But a feeling in Kashmir is that relief is following the rescue trend – making the process a PR exercise at the institutional and the individual level. When the security men started rescue in Kashmir, they would take a crew with every boat and record them praise the rescuers. This was criticized by the people holding high offices. It was found key to doing less and use the publicity to make it look great.
This is all right if it would have been an ordinary situation. These floods have been debilitating for the economy and life across most parts of J&K. People who are now sufferers and victims were the proud owners of every luxury, a month back. Now some agencies and people are making them face the cameras.
For officials, it is important to keep records of the distributions they make. They should have the photo records of the process as well. But making the ‘victims’ face cameras is a very unpleasant activity. And some officials do it quite often.
These pictures reached Kashmir Life as their respective public relation cells circulated a mass of them to the media. While there is no doubt that this all did not happen and the officials did work and dispense relief to the people, the prevailing situation demands that these are not made postcards of self promotion. If a family that has lost a member is getting a petty blanket or a bucket, the picture sounds humiliating. And then the contrast of emotions that the ‘giver’ and ‘taker’ exhibit in these pictures adds to the insult of even those who watch them. These items are not being given to them as a matter of charity but they are getting it as a matter of right.
Udhampur wherefrom most of these pictures are coming has Saddal village still buried, mostly. It might have been a great visual had the officials disseminated pictures of the day-to-day progress from the villages that lost 40 souls including women and children. Authorities are using a lot of machinery to get the bodies out of the massive landslide that buried the village but there are not many successes.
This season, J&K witnessed massive movement for help. There were many hands giving and many more receiving. But photo-ops were avoided. We hope the aberrations also stop, at least now.