As floods struck, JK govt went missing: SC panel

‘No effective steps were taken to warn people residing in vulnerable areas’


A Supreme Court-appointed committee on the catastrophic floods in Jammu and Kashmir details the failures of the State government — from failing to evacuate people residing in vulnerable areas to leaving the victims to “fend for themselves” with hardly any food or drinking water. The committee, in its field report dated October 9, recorded the statements of survivors who said supply of free ration that was promised did not reach them, that they still lived mostly in makeshift places with hardly any blankets for the oncoming winter and no ex-gratia had been paid to them. The report said doctors deputed to the State by the Centre have either been sent back or remain there with no work while stinking garbage line the streets along with animal carcasses. The committee was set up by a three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India (retired) R.M. Lodha on writ petitions filed lawyers and activists, represented by senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, from Jammu and Kashmir on September 24. It was directed to conduct an independent evaluation of the ground situation in the flood-affected State and file a report on October 10. The committee comprises Suresh Kumar Sharma, Registrar General, Jammu and Kashmir High Court as convenor; Mian Ab. Qayoom, President, High Court Bar Association, Srinagar; Sanjay Agarwal, Director, Ministry of Home Affairs; M.K. Bhardwaj, President, High Court Bar Association, Jammu; and Vinod Kaul, Secretary, Revenue Department, Jammu and Kashmir government. Kaul said the committee was able to witness only five per cent of the devastation in the State. They covered Kulgam, Pulwama, Anantnag, Jammu, Udhampur, Rajouri and Poonch districts between September 30 and October 8. The report pointed out that “no effective steps were taken to warn people residing in vulnerable areas of Srinagar city of the fast-approaching deluge of flood and to evacuate them.” It said “people remained stranded for days together without food and drinking water, waiting for rescue, which was being elusive.” The report added that it was only their “fierce sense of survival” and ultimately the valiant efforts of the defence forces, NDRF and local volunteers that rescued them. The report said there is “intense anguish and resentment against [the] authorities.”

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