Shame is a five-alphabet word which has lost its meaning for politicians in Kashmir. In the most testing times during floods in parts of the Valley they vanished into oblivion and once the situation started easing up they came from nowhere to demonstrate their presence.
Except for senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad who, perchance happened to be in Srinagar before the devastating floods swept the vast swathes of the city, preferred to stay put and be amid his people during grave hour of crisis. Operating from Mirani Guest House, located at a safer contour in the vicinity of International Airport Srinagar, Azad, with the help of a group of local youth and Youth Congress volunteers from Jammu and Delhi, is said to have quietly organised rescue and relief activities just at the nick of the time, by arranging boats from Pune and medicines, doctors, food stuff, etc. from other parts of the country.
This was the time when ever-vocal and ever-agile (for obvious reasons) leaders of National Conference or the People’s Democratic Party were to be seen nowhere. They surfaced only when the situation showed semblance of normalcy. They plunged into giving sermons and criticising the Centre for not taking adequate measures with regard to rescue and relief operations.
Where were they? All inclusive, National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party, the local faces of Congress and other so-called mainstream outfits. Even the most pro-active secessionists, who are more jugglers and liars than self-proclaimed Messiahs, also didn’t show up when their brethren faced the initial brunt of natural calamity.
Was it really a calamity or man-made disaster? The question will need an answer in days to come. So far attention has not gone to this mystery.
Floods in Kashmir have a history. Its threat has all along been looming over the habitants; more before dredging in Baramulla which eased the situation and let the people live in peace for decades. However, the preparedness for flood control has never missed the attention of the concerned. There is a standard drill to avert floods whenever torrential rains lash the Valley. The bunds on the both sides of River Jhelum are vigorously patrolled round the clock with sandbags kept in readiness. Well before Srinagar got inundated in the close vicinity of the cantonment, the Jhelum had shown signs of danger while passing through Anantnag and other townships up to the capital city. This should have alarmed the officials. There is no reason for not anticipating breaches to occur. That happened and no answer is coming forth why emergent measures were not taken to plug the Shivpora breach and similar others down to Zero Bridge. But who would have monitored all this, as the administration, the political executives and huge army of politicians were in limbo.
The only visible Chief Minister showed high degree of desperation and despair rather than putting his act together to meet the situation like the anchor of a ship who doesn’t give up till last. He made a frank admission that the government was nowhere. And those who dominated the scene were forgotten by the self-centered politicians and deceptive separatists. They coined a term ‘volunteer’ to offset the great job done by the Indian Air Force, Army and the National Disaster Management Response Force. The impact, however, will remain pronounced over those who owe their new life to Messiahs in olive green. Of course, there were volunteers who worked tirelessy. Who will undermine the crucial role played by the management of Chatti Padsahshi Barzulla that gave shelter and food to thousands of sufferers, mostly from the majority community?
The pampered politicians and bureaucrats showed high degree of apathy towards the people across the Valley. While many bureaucrats remained awfully busy in ensuring safety to their families, some were reportedly pushing for priority in getting their ‘friends’ evacuated from the marooned areas. It was a shocker for the staff and the State based passengers at Jammu Airport to see Minister for Higher Education Mohammed Akbar Lone and Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Mir Saif-ullah alighting from Spice-Jet at 12.55 PM on 10thSeptember 2014, the day flood-affected people were finding razor thin difference between life and death in their nearly-collapsing houses in the inundated areas. If these, and a few other ministers and officers, could reach up to the Srinagar Airport, what stopped them from supplementing the efforts of dejected Chief Minister who had become part of the army rescuers to run helter skelter? Minister for Social Welfare Sakina Itoo followed the suit even as south Kashmir was reeling under floods.
Same has been the sad story of PDP and Congress leaders who failed to rise to the occasion. Now they are crying hoarse over the central packages and fair distribution of relief material. Politicians of all hues, including separatists, have been changing colours like chameleons in Kashmir. If they think the people don’t know where they stand, they are behaving like ostriches.
Salutes to multiple forces which dedicated themselves to the mission ‘not to stay back till the last sufferer is rescued’. The Indian Air Force did not only open up its gates for the shelter less people at the Air Field but also lodged the huge contingents of media covering the unprecedented floods. Their supportive staff had been lodged in 30 rooms of the 50-room Mirani Guest House in the close vicinity, which, however, lacked the mess facilities. The other 20 rooms were occupied by Congress volunteers. The government had failed to such an extent that there was no arrangement of Langer for the uprooted families or visiting people from across the country. This should not have been difficult as the majority of Kashmir localities had not been affected by the floods. Had there been any administrative mechanism in place, the manpower and other logistics could have been mobilised from Baramulla, Kupwara, Bandipora and Budgam Districts. But the administration had drowned well before the flash floods submerged posh Srinagar localities.
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© 2017 State Times Daily Newspaper