Diaspora, Donors and Reconstruction

Diaspora, Donors and Reconstruction

Ahmed 5, the naughtiest grandchild in our family is fond of toy cars and toy images of cartoon characters Spiderman, He-Man, Batman, Ironman and many others. He had quite good collection of toy cars- and was passionately possessive of them. The flood waters washed away all his toys except his cherry red BMW.  His seven year sister, who also had lost all her dolls and toys to the deluge consoled him – ‘grandee will get new ones for us’. But, when Daneen 6, his cousin sister, thousands of miles away in Almaty heard the sad news, she told her father ‘pack all my toys and send them to Ahmed- lest he weeps’. Concern shown by innocent Daneen for Ahmed speaks volumes about the pain caused by devastating deluge in Kashmiri community across the globe and their eagerness to support their kith and kin back home.  It also raises a fundamental question if Daneen has a right to send toys to her cousin and if this gesture of love and humanity also does not fall under the purview of Foreign Contribution Act (FCRA)-  that becomes more stringent when it pertains  to Jammu and Kashmir.

My past Monday column making a case for international aid and intervention for devastated state of Jammu and Kashmir particularly Kashmir valley had initiated some e-mails from Kashmir Diaspora, stating that they wanted to contribute enthusiastically in rebuilding their homeland by raising donations and persuading international donors to come forward in reconstructing the destroyed infrastructure and rehabilitating hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people. A US based Professor of Comparative Religion of Kashmiri origin in her mail wrote, ‘we (Kashmir Diaspora) are all in our own way trying to make a case for allowing international aid. There is a lot of passion and energy amongst many willing volunteers. We have been at it from the start but governments here say that their hands are tied because of India’s refusal.’  India guidelines for receiving contribution under FCRA are stringent in as much as that even Non-Resident Indians donations are treated as of ‘foreign source’ and need to follow the rigmarole of FCRA. However, those holding Indian passports do not have such a restrictions and they have freedom to donate to any NGO registered in India and their donation will not be treated as of foreign source.’ Internationally, in distress situations as that of devastating floods of September 7 no restrictions are imposed on diaspora to help people back home and work for rehabilitation and reconstruction of country of their origin. In fact waivers and incentives are announced in case of donation meant for national and international calamities- Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has called Kashmir floods as a ‘national calamity’ and the state government has described it as an ‘international disaster.’

It is intriguing why much before making a preliminary assessment of the magnitude of the losses suffered by the state New Delhi refused aid for rescue, relief and rehabilitation for flood hit Kashmir from the United Nations and some other international agencies. And surprisingly the WHO was not also posted with correct information about destroyed health care system in the state.  Instead, of informing the world organization that infrastructure of all major hospitals has been washed the report now in public domain gives a hunky-dory picture. 

Now when the losses suffered   have been worked to be more than a trillion rupees by the state government and a non-governmental agency there seems no    case for the government in New Delhi to refuse UN and other international aid for helping the state for rehabilitating people and reviving state economy. It also has no reason to stop the Kashmir Diaspora helping affected people back home by constructing homes for those rendered without shelter a or reviving the health sector.  In 2005, when earth shook with ferocity and killed thousands of Kashmiris without recognizing the LOC. Reducing  everything in sight to rubble, making  towns look  as if ‘eaten alive’   it was  Kashmir Diaspora in various parts of the world and more particularly in UK that was  in forefront,  mobilizing international community to come forward in this hour of crisis and help in rebuilding the devastated Muzaffarabad, historic town of Balakot and other towns on the other side of the line. Notwithstanding, the initial hiccups it was for the open minded policies of General Musharraf towards that foreign aid that in 2006 billions of  dollars  were committed  by international aid agencies for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of earthquake-hit AJK. But, for this international aid Muzaffarabad and other towns would not have emerged from the rubble as modern cities and economy of one third of Jammu and Kashmir would not have been revived to new heights. 

Not only advocacy groups or economists even the state bureaucracy recognizes the fact that with droplets of a few thousand crores aid from the Central government the state cannot be brought to previous level of facilities and service even during next ten years. To put it back on the track the state administration would have to plead before North and South Blocks in New Delhi for waiving FCRA restriction for enabling Kashmir Diaspora across the globe raising donations and remitting the same to some state designated executing agency for reviving essential sectors like health, education and housing.   And inviting international donors for rebuilding the devastated paradise on earth as has been done during many other catastrophes in the past in the region,  

Ostensibly, there should be no major reason for the BJP led government for refusing  UN, international humanitarian organizations   and other friendly international donors like America and Japan   participation  in rebuilding in Kashmir in  case the state creates an independent Flood Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority . An open and transparent organization free from bureaucratic stagnation and exploitation by the ruling party with adequate supervisions by GOI and the donor organizations. 

It is high time that New Delhi did not dovetail reconstruction of the State with politics