From Earthquake to Floods to God knows what?

Floods, floods, floods ….Everywhere. Kashmir valley got flooded in the 1st week of last month just exactly 11 months after the earthquake ( 8th October,2005) which killed nearly one lakh people on ...

Floods, floods, floods ….Everywhere. Kashmir valley got flooded in the 1st week of last month just exactly 11 months after the earthquake ( 8th October,2005) which killed nearly one lakh people on both sides of the border. Earthquake had major impact in the northern twin districts- Baramulla & Kupwara and also northern part of central Kashmir while as Floods proved devastating in the southern twin districts- Islamabad and Pulwama of the valley including the South, SW, Western part of Srinagar city. Approximately two dozen people have died and agricultural produce, horticulture, infrastructure including roads, bridges etc worth millions of rupees have been damaged. Harvesting season had already set in and these two months are always of paramount importance to the farmers. All hopes of farmers for a good fortune were drowned in the muddy waters of river Jehlum and other tributaries. It is claimed that floods of this magnitude have struck valley after nearly 22-25 years.
Now the Govt.-both central and state will be investing hundreds of crores of rupees in rehabilitation and assistance and other political packages. Before disaster, the Govts. are never ready to provide even lakhs of rupees for proposals/projects leading to prevention of floods or any other foreseeable natural disaster and that time all concerned politicians, policy makers as well as financial planners would create all possible hurdles in order that the projects do not see the light of the day. Why should they invest time and energy in future proposals as there are no takers in the upper strata of the administration and political set up? They eventually formulate a proposal for immediate action and have their commissions and extra booty before a transfer takes place and repeat the same at the next destination and move on. Same is the case with politicians who live and sustain on ad hocism.
This sort of political and administrative mindset simply raises various questions. i) Do we have a vision/goal to prevent disasters and where is the address of Crisis Management Cell or Disaster Prevention Committee? ii) Do we have visionary public servants in administration and legislation? iii) Even if we create a vision, can it be accomplished at ground? iv) Why the good policies/proposals on paper really don't see the light of the day and remain in official closets? v) Does corruption have any role in non implementation of visionary projects? vi) What is the role of Politicians as a legislative heads, Bureaucrats as policy/decision makers & financial planners, Town/city planners as physical planners envisaging long term perspective planning for town/cities, Architects as building/project designers and creators of aesthetic public architecture, Engineers in field agencies & acting as executioners of various projects and common men as responsible alert citizens? viii) Do we have long term or short term goals and what is the impact of short cut strategies? ix) Do we learn anything from past disasters or could we take a clue from disasters in other regions of the world? x) What type of natural disasters are possible in Kashmir valley, Jammu region or Ladhakh valley and what have been our previous solutions, present response and future strategies? xi) xii) Is the system responsible for the mess or the persons who head various agencies of the govt? xii) In case of the redundant system, why there is no policy to improve it? xiv) Can the persons who are responsible for this type of system be part of the improvement committee? xv) What about the dead wood policy of the government and what about the Ombudsman & transparency. Who will screen the rotten portion? And many more…….?
The exhaustive articles "Wake up call" and "Don't be scared but prepared" written about a future unpredictable natural disaster published in this newspaper had no bearing on the administration as those concerned were not moved by its contents which later on were proved right. Then when earthquake happened, everyone cried. Govt. came with a whopping package of hundreds of crores of rupees for rehabilitation and relief and is still not getting out of it. Some made fortunes out of it including government officials. Some tried to make political mileage and others were left high and dry. Suddenly NGOs popped up in order to be concerned. Had the government or for that matter the so called Disaster Management Group/Crisis Committee, which we suppose surfaces only when a calamity occurs to look into the matter and taken care well before the disaster, the situation would not have been pathetic during and after the disaster. Then who shall envisage the prevention, protection, mitigation of disasters before hand? Do the policy makers and planners take any cognizance of what is conveyed in media- print & electronic? I personally have strong belief, they don't. Corruption, malafide intentions, mafia style of work culture (horizontal/vertical) and to look only for green pastures with short cuts has made them deaf, dumb and blind. So why should people expect anything good.
Political set up in J &K waited for 11 months to release the second installment in order to build structures and now expect homeless to make them within one month and that too in the month of fasts. Was it a planned political mileage in the holy month of Ramzan? The newspaper reports about the non seriousness of the government as well as the so called NGO's in the last eleven months after disaster are really frustrating and awesome. Although the disaster was not devastative to that extent in comparison to the destruction as was in Azad Kashmir. Imagine, had the epicenter been in this part of Kashmir and the same type of destruction here, what would have been the response assuming the seriousness of our government as well as these NGO's. The Ist installment was possible in the fifth month after earthquake because of intervention of the High Court. Affected People praised the judiciary and their quick decisions. Recently in a seminar organized by ACTIONAID , all the activities during the last eleven months of pain and agony were deliberated upon. It was surprising to know that some people in Karnah are yet to receive anything since 8th October, 2005. That is certainly not the way we can help those in distress.

(M.G.Hassan is a Srinagar based architect-planner and can be emailed at ghmir_1094@yahoo.co.in)

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