SC panel underlines Govt’s lax response

Says people brimming with anger against authorities over ‘poor’ relief, rehabilitation measures; Calls for ban on constructions on river beds

Kashmir floods

Noting that the flood-affected people in Jammu and Kashmir are “brimming with anger” against the government for not providing them relief following the last month’s devastating deluge, a committee constituted by the Supreme Court to assess the ground situation in the State has exposed the government’s lax response in dealing with the flood situation and its aftermath. The panel has also recommended a slew of measures that require the government’s immediate attention to provide succor to the flood-survivors.

In its interim report submitted to the Apex Court, the panel has observed that there is “widespread resentment against the authorities for failing to distribute relief in the affected areas.”
The committee—after interacting with flood victims in the worst-hit areas of Srinagar like Raj Bagh, IkhrajPora, Jawhar Nagar, Mehjoor Nagar, Kursu Raj Bagh, Indira Nagar and Shivpora—has remarked that “the flood affected claim that the state had left them to fend for themselves. There is intense anguish and resentment against the official authorities for not providing them (flood-victims) any relief and help. The complaints of this nature have also poured in from Karan Nagar area of the City.”
According to the report, the ration has been distributed among the unaffected persons “for the sake of appeasing them at the cost of the deserving persons.”
The panel held that that relief is not being properly distributed in some parts of the State particularly in Srinagar, Udhampur and Rajouri districts.
In the report, the committee has observed that the flood-affected people, who need warm clothes to survive the harsh winters, were not provided with blankets. It has also noted that the  flood affected people are residing with their relatives or at other make-shift places.
The committee has also pointed out that the health sector is yet to be brought back on the track in Srinagar.
According to the committee, the medicos at Bone and Joint Hospital Barzulla complained that they were facing shortage of proper equipment, including ultrasound machines.
The committee during its visit to the Kashmir’s lone pediatric hospital, GB Pant,  has found that its OPD services were run for limited hours while its indoor services are yet to be made functional.

The panel has also pointed to failure of the authorities in carrying out de-watering and sanitation in the affected areas.
“Members of the committee also inspected areas near Modern Hospital Raj Bagh where no efforts were being made to de-water the three-and-a-half feet water even after 20 days. Bad stench was emanating from there,” the report reads, adding, “A group of persons informed us that carcasses of dead animals were still lying there.”
“They were expressing resentment against the authorities for not making any effort to clear the area.”
The panel has noted that people complained delay on part of authorities in making assessment of their damaged properties.
“A common complaint was made by a large number of persons of urban and rural areas that assessment of most of their damaged properties has not been made so far. Consequently, they have not been paid any ex-gratia relief,” the report reads.

The panel has also slammed the state government for its “poor” pre-flood response. “It (flood waters) was observed to have crossed 17 feet above the danger point at Sangam, where a gauge had been installed to measure its level. It normally takes 6-7 hours from that point to reach Srinagar city but no effective steps were taken to warn people residing in vulnerable areas of City of fast approaching flood and to evacuate them,” the report reads.
The panel has recommended several measures saying they require government’s immediate attention. These include: Gearing up and revamping the distribution machinery at the district level to ensure equal distribution of the relief material to the needy and flood-affected people; Providing blankets and warm clothes to flood-victims; Initiate concrete steps to ensure speedy rehabilitation of the affected people;
Ensure supply of essential medicines regularly; Free supply of medicines and implants to the flood survivors for a period of six months; Deputing medicos from AIIMS and Nimehans to provide psychiatric counseling and treatment to the people; De-water residential houses and restore basic services like water, electricity; Disburse ex-gratia expeditiously; Estimate losses of horticulture and agriculture sectors; Gear up Municipal Authority  to launch a massive cleanliness drive in the flood-affected areas of the City; Send teams of Health department  to every locality for necessary immunization and distribution of chlorine medicines.

In a significant recommendation, a panel constituted by the Supreme Court last month to assess the ground situation in Jammu and Kashmir following the catastrophic floods has called for a blanket ban on constructions on the beds of flood-prone rivers in the State.
“The construction on the beds of flood-prone Nallahs and rivers must be strictly banned,” a report prepared by the panel reads. “In case of any violation, accountability must be fixed and guilty made personally liable.”
The panel has also expressed surprise over granting of permission to the people for allowing constructions on the beds of rivers and Nallahs.

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