‘Relief material unlikely to reach needy in view of hurdles created by JK Government’
Around 50 community water filters with capacity to provide safe drinking water to around 25,000 souls are stuck up in Jammu for want of the clearance certificate made mandatory by the state government by virtue of an order issued on September 20. These water filters are meant for free distribution in flood-hit Srinagar and its adjoining areas.
Responding to a request of the state’s Public Health Engineering department, Oxfam India, an independent non-governmental organization, had dispatched 50 community water filters for free distribution in Srinagar to ensure clean drinking water to its flood-hit inhabitants.
According to Oxfam officials, the trucks carrying the water filters reached Lakhanpur Toll Post on September 21 and were held up by the state’s Sales Tax and Excise department.
The Oxfam officials said the truck drivers were asked by the Toll Post authorities to either produce clearance certificate issued by JK’s Resident Commissioner, New Delhi or by Deputy Commissioner (DC) Jammu/Srinagar/Anantnag where the consignments are destined to be delivered.
Bhabesh Lahakar, the Logistic Officer in Oxfam India, told Greater Kashmir that even the intervention of the JK’s Excise Commissioner Zafar Ahmad didn’t help.
The Oxfam volunteers then approached office of Deputy Commissioner Kathua who issued them a certificate that the goods were meant for relief and not sale. A copy of this certificate is with Greater Kashmir. Signed by Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC) Kathua, the certificate essentially states that the goods cleared by officials at Lakhanpur would be delivered by the two truckers at SRTC yard in Jammu. According to Bhabesh, the trucks were allowed to proceed and they reached Jammu on September 23.
But when the administration in Jammu was requested by the volunteers of Oxfam to allow the trucks to proceed towards Srinagar, they were told to approach the officer of Incharge Relief Jammu, Babu Ram. Volunteers of Oxfam said that Babu Ram told them to hand over the relief material to them and they would distribute the same on their own. Oxfam volunteers objected to this and said they have a wide network in Kashmir and hence they would like to do the same themselves.
According to the volunteers, they then approached Bipul Pathak, who has been specially assigned the job of coordinating relief for Kashmir. He told the Oxfam officials to approach Deputy Commissioner (DC) Jammu Ajeet Kumar Sahu for issuance of necessary clearance certificate. They approached Sahu for clearance certificate who denied the same on the grounds that the consignment was meant for Srinagar and not Jammu.
Now, the Oxfam India officials have proceeded by road towards Kashmir valley for issuance of necessary clearance certificate. Not only this, another consignment which had come by train is lying in the ‘Safe House’ of the Sales Tax department at Jammu Railway Station. Volunteers of Oxfam said that the consignment contains certain perishable items along with medicines and hygiene kits meant for free distribution in south and north Kashmir.
They said that consignments are designed on the basis of assessment reports received by Oxfam India from their volunteers who are already working in Kashmir valley.
Talking to Greater Kashmir, volunteers of Oxfam India said that 2500 sheets of tarpaulin alongwith foam sheets, blankets, buckets and sanitary material are on their way from various parts of the country for free distribution in Kashmir valley but given the hurdles being created by the government, these are unlikely to reach deserving in time.
If the drivers of the these two trucks are to be believed, several trucks loaded with perishable items had to return back from Lakhanpur after they were not allowed to cross the Toll Post for want of clearance certificates.
Commissioner Commercial Tax Syed Kifayat Rizvi claimed: “We had received information about 100 vehicles carrying relief pending for clearance at Lakhanpur toll post. I personally visited the spot and found none. There are no issues from our side.”Officials of the NGO and truck drivers contested Rizvi’s claim.