2014 floods: 6 years on many victims still await rehabilitation

GK Photo of 2014 floods

Six years after the devastating floods hit Kashmir, several groups of flood victims still await their rehabilitation.

Traders, tourism players, shopkeepers and various other affected groups said that the files pertaining to their rehabilitation are still pending in government offices.

According to a report prepared by the Annual Disaster Statistical Review, Kashmir had incurred around $16 billion (104000 crore INR) loss due to the devastating floods that hit most parts of the Valley on 7 September 2014.

President Kashmir Traders and Manufactures Federation and Chairman Kashmir Economic Alliance Muhammad Yaseen Khan said that the promises made in 2014 are still “unfulfilled”.

“Financial aid, rehabilitation and interest waiver on bank loans were some of the promises made by the then government. Even as peanuts were paid in financial aid to some affected shopkeepers, thirty percent affected traders are still running from pillar to post to get it,” Khan said.

He said that traders’ bodies still take up the matter with the offices concerned. “But most of the times we are asked that incumbent officers are not aware about these files or the promises made in 2014,” he said.

President Regal Chowk Traders Association Farhan Kitab said that business community is still struggling to revive business since devastating 2014 floods.

“The then government had promised soft loans for business community for trade revival. The promise was never kept. Many traders are still running from post to pillar for insurance claims, but due to dispute with banks their claims are not taken up for hearings,” Kitab said.

The first flood anniversary in 2015 was marked by shutdown and protests against the alleged failure of the government to rehabilitate the flood victims.

Flood victims, hit by September 7, 2014 deluge, also expressed dismay over what they called “failure of the authorities” to rehabilitate them.

Ansar Ahmad Mir from Sonwar here, whose residential house was severely damaged, said his file was readied for compensation in the DC Office Srinagar in 2015. “There has been no progress on my case since then. I visit the authorities concerned every fortnight to know the status of my case. I am yet to receive the assistance under SDRF which was disbursed soon after flood waters receded,” he rued.

Mir said he rebuilt his residential house after taking loan from a bank. “Since disbursement of compensation was delayed, I applied for housing loan and thought to repay it once the compensation amount is released. Till date, the amount has not been released,” he said.

The assistance to the flood victims was provided in three installments. The then Omar Abdullah-led government paid Rs 75,000 compensation for fully damaged house, Rs 12,500 each for severely damaged and Rs 3,800 for partially damaged as an immediate interim relief. The amount was disbursed from state disaster relief fund. Later, the government paid the second installment under the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PNMRF) and the third under PMDF.

Contractors who worked day and night for restoration of road connectivity, river embankment breaches damaged by floods are yet to be paid for services rendered.

“We have sold the valuables in those crises times and executed public interest works on war footing. Government owes us Rs 32 crore which are yet to be paid despite passing of six years now,” said Ghulam Jeelani Purza, president J&K Contractors Coordination Committee.

Post-floods, in November 2014 the Government of India announced a Rs 80,000-crore package saying funds would not be a constraint in building “a modern, progressive and prosperous State.”

The flood mitigation programme is also going on snail’s pace. “The phase-II of flood mitigation which would have started much earlier is yet to be commenced,” said an official.

An expert said that a retaining wall is needed to be constructed from Pandrethan to Shivpora to safe Srinagar city from floods. “But this suggestion was never considered by authorities,” he rued.

Chief Engineer Irrigation and Flood Control Department Kashmir Iftikhar Kukroo said that phase-I of flood mitigation programme is “almost complete.”

“The phase-II would commence shortly,” he said.

A study titled ‘A satellite-based rapid assessment on floods in Jammu & Kashmir–September, 2014’, conducted jointly by the department of environment & remote sensing and the ISRO, concluded that the 2014 floods inundated 557 sq-km of Kashmir and affected at least 22 lakh people.