Jammu and Kashmir as well as the areas of Kashmir across the LoC have been with the worst floods in living memory. The floods, caused by sudden and extreme rainfall, have claimed some 80,000 across the LoC and 2000 lives in J&K. The region is facing a massive humanitarian crisis, with people stranded without food, potable water and shelter, and thousands having lost their homes, property and means of livelihood.
Not long ago, Uttarakhand also suffered a terrible calamity. It seems that Governments refuse to learn the bitter lessons taught by each such calamity. In J&K, as in Uttarakhand, it is apparent that reckless urbanization fueled by a tourism economy, with scant regard for the fragile ecosystem, have contributed in great measure to the scale and magnitude of the disaster. Moreover, in spite of a string of similar disasters, Governments have refused to put in place early warning and evacuation systems that can accurately forewarn populations of an impending calamity and move people to protected areas. Now, even as the floods recede, the threat of a massive quake looms ahead, while the Indian Government even now has made no plans to protect the region’s people in case of quakes.
The Supreme Court, overruling the Centre’s plea against the Court’s intervention, ordered the Centre to accelerate rescue, relief and rehabilitation operations for the flood victims, setting up a Unified Agency if needed. This has underlined the fact that the ongoing relief and rescue operations are woefully inadequate. Though the Army and Air Force are conducting rescue and relief operations in tough conditions, the fact is that huge numbers of people continue to be stranded with no sign of help in sight. In such circumstances, the efforts of common citizens to organize evacuation, and take food and water to stranded people, are heartening.
Delays and inadequacy in relief, failure to reach the worst affected, breakdown of basic services including medical services and food and water as well as communications, have resulted in a desperate situation. Angry outbursts by affected people in such circumstances are commonly seen in all disaster-affected regions including Uttarakhand, North Bihar and Assam. But in Kashmir, it is disturbing to see callous right-wing politicians and the media portray the devastated victims of the deluge as heartless and anti-national ‘stone-pelters’ who are attacking the heroic Armed Forces rescuing them.