Mil­i­tary’s con­tri­bu­tion to J&K flood re­lief

SP's MAI - - FRONT PAGE - [ By Lt Gen­eral P.C. Ka­toch (Retd) ]

The flood sit­u­a­tion in Jammu and Kashmir ( J&K) has been de­clared a “na­tional-level dis­as­ter” by Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and sanc­tioned 1,000 crore for flood re­lief. Fi­nan­cial aid from other states, or­gan­i­sa­tions and in­di­vid­u­als are pour­ing in. The In­dian armed forces had swung into im­me­di­ate re­lief and res­cue, even as the Army Chief an­nounced that the “army will not re­turn to bar­racks till the last man is brought to safety”, while a lady tweeted on the so­cial me­dia “God could not be ev­ery­where, so he sent the In­dian Army.” Sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments had flooded the me­dia dur­ing the Ut­trak­hand dis­as­ter. As this ar­ti­cle is be­ing sent to print, more than 1,50,000 per­sons have been evac­u­ated to safety from in­un­dated ar­eas across the state by the armed forces.

The un­ex­pected col­li­sion of moist warm mon­soon winds and cool dry western dis­tur­bance over Jammu and Kashmir on Septem­ber 3 led to the dev­as­tat­ing rain cou­pled with cloud bursts across the re­gion. The In­dia Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Depart­ment (IMD) claims it had pre­dicted this sit­u­a­tion in­clud­ing from data col­lected from 22 au­to­matic weather sta­tions in­stalled across the State. The au­to­matic weather sta­tions project was started after the 2005 snow tsunami, which led to loss of lives and de­stroyed prop­er­ties worth crores. In re­cent years, weather sci­en­tists are tak­ing help of satel­lite im­agery, but loss of lives and prop­erty is beyond the scope of any mod­ern tech­nol­ogy.

Heavy rain has caused mas­sive wa­ter­log­ging in Jammu and Kashmir. Panic gripped the city as wa­ter en­tered many low-ly­ing res­i­den­tial ar­eas in up­town Srinagar, sub­merg­ing many houses. Res­i­dents of the city woke up on Septem­ber 4 to in­un­dated roads and streets, wa­ter­logged lanes and by­lanes lead­ing to posh res­i­den­tial ar­eas and sub­urbs and over­flow­ing flood chan­nels. But then River Jhelum broke its banks, as did the Chenab, Tawi and some other rivers, Bas­an­tarand other over­flow­ing nullahs. The em­bank­ments of the Jhelum were breached at many places due to rise in the wa­ter level, sub­merg­ing ar­eas like Badamibagh, Son­awar, Ra­jbagh, Kursu, Nati­pora, Nowgam and Old Barzulla.

As about one-third of Srinagar went un­der­wa­ter, some ar­eas still hav­ing 20 feet of wa­ter on Septem­ber 9, heavy da­m­ages to in­fra­struc­ture in Samba, Kathua, Ra­jouri, Poonch, Ram­ban, Ud­ham­pur, Doda and Reasi dis­tricts. Peo­ple of th­ese dis­tricts too were ren­dered home­less as many houses have col­lapsed. The Na­tional Hy­dro­elec­tric Power Cor­po­ra­tion is­sued a warn­ing to the pub­lic of Doda and Kisht­war dis­tricts not to move close to the Chenab banks as they were go­ing to open gates of the reser­voir of the Dul­hasti power sta­tion. A part of the Jammu-Sr­ri­na­gar High­way was washed away cut­ting off com­mu­ni­ca­tions and the Vaisno Devi Ya­tra was sus­pended (now re­sumed). For­ward posts, es­pe­cially closer to rivulets were ei­ther in­un­dated or left with slush on dirt tracks com­pound­ing the prob­lems of pa­trolling, while some por­tions of the bor­der fence too has been dam­aged or washed away.

The state’s worst flood­ing in 60 years has sub­merged vil­lages, ru­ined crops, snapped com­mu­ni­ca­tion links and left

thou­sands home­less. In Srinagar, ini­tially the low-ly­ing ar­eas, in­clud­ing Barzulla, Bem­ina, Bhagat, Pir Bagh, Nati­pora, Chana­pora, Me­hjoor Na­gar, Las­jan and Civil Lines were most af­fected but then in­ces­sant rain and the rag­ing Jhelum in­un­dated most of Srinagar in­clud­ing ar­eas like Ra­jbagh and the Army Can­ton­ment. To­day, Srinagar and sur­round­ing ar­eas rep­re­sent a huge lake. Wa­ter­log­ging has hit the im­por­tant in­stal­la­tions like the civil sec­re­tariat and Jammu and Kashmir High Court. Even hos­pi­tals like the Chil­dren’s hos­pi­tal in Son­awar and Srinagar’s sole gov­ern­ment ma­ter­nity hos­pi­tal Lal Ded have been badly af­fected by wa­ter­log­ging. To say that the state ad­min­is­tra­tion was ill pre­pared would be an un­der­state­ment, and the Na­tional Dis­as­ter Re­lief Force (NDRF) teams have very limited ca­pa­bil­ity as was also wit­nessed dur­ing the Ut­tarak­hand dis­as­ter. Trag­i­cally, some 175 lives have been lost in­clud­ing 27 peo­ple killed due to land­slide in re­mote Pancheri vil­lage of Ud­ham­pur dis­trict. The armed forces have de­ployed 135 ground col­umns (over 20,000 sol­diers), 65 med­i­cal teams, 15 en­gi­neer task forces, 50 planes and he­li­copters (both Army and Air Force) and some 65 boats.The Army has pulled out Chee­tah he­li­copters even from the Si­achen area to res­cue. Navy’s marine com­man­dos are also as­sist­ing the res­cue. Some 10,000 blan­kets, 150 tonnes of ra­tions and four lakh litres of milk have been flown in, and this stream of re­lief will con­tinue till re­quired. The res­cue op­er­a­tion is likely to be a long one with some four lakh peo­ple still await­ing res­cue from in­un­dated homes and very limited dry spots where the he­li­copters can land. Mil­i­tary he­li­copters have been try­ing to pluck some peo­ple pre­car­i­ously perched from atop rooftops. While BSNL has pro­vided 20 VSATs, army is help­ing in their in­stal­la­tion to re­store com­mu­ni­ca­tions. There has been com­plete break­down of tele­com ser­vices. Power sup­ply re­mains dis­rupted across the state with hos­pi­tals bear­ing the brunt of the cri­sis. In Jammu, land­slides have dam­aged roads, bridges, build­ings and crops. Ve­hic­u­lar traf­fic is at stand­still on the Jammu-Pathankot high­way. Ka­tra trains have been halted and Haj flights sched­uled up to Septem­ber 12 have been post­poned.

Part of the alien­ation of the J&K pop­u­la­tion has been be­cause they were kept as a sep­a­rate en­tity or in other words not given a chance to in­te­grate with the coun­try pri­mar­ily be­cause of the ar­bi­trary im­po­si­tion of Ar­ti­cle 370 by Nehru, with­out even tak­ing the then Home Min­is­ter Sar­dar Pa­tel into con­fi­dence de­spite the fact that J&K was an in­te­gral part of In­dia and very much the forte of the Home Min­is­ter. At that time, Nehru was cat­e­gor­i­cal in stat­ing that Ar­ti­cle 370 was only a tem­po­rary mea­sure but for some sin­is­ter rea­son he con­tin­ued with it, fol­lowed by his prog­eny. This was one of the pri­mary rea­sons for a feel­ing of alien­ation of Kash­miris, es­pe­cially in youth that kept the separatist move­ment in the state alive. This not­with­stand­ing, cur­rent help pour­ing in from all over In­dia in this hour of calamity should pro­vide a balm to the alien­ation. Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi has pub­licly as­sured the pop­u­la­tion of J&K that ev­ery pos­si­ble help will be pro­vided. This was re­in­forced by the Home Min­is­ter by say­ing that there will be no dearth of fi­nances and re­sources in ren­der­ing aid. Among the var­i­ous fi­nan­cial do­na­tions pan In­dia, groups have come up at many places to col­lect re­lief ma­te­rial, es­tab­lish help lines and trace rel­a­tives and friends through the so­cial me­dia of doc­tors. A com­puter pro­fes­sional has formed a group and es­tab­lished a web­site

jk­flood­relief.org to col­lect and co­or­di­nate re­lief ef­forts for the rav­aged state. There are al­ready 10,000 page views and the Twit­ter feed on the web­site has come in handy for those who are scour­ing for in­for­ma­tion about their loved ones stranded in the J&K floods. Another Del­hibased or­gan­i­sa­tion is vol­un­teer­ing with the col­lec­tion and trans­porta­tion of re­lief ma­te­rial to J&K, akin to an air­line company. Vol­un­teers have also co­or­di­nat­ing medicine sup­ply to the flood af­fected through phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies who have agreed to help with medicines.

In­ter­est­ingly at a time when the en­tire fo­cus of the na­tion has been on res­cue and re­lief to pro­vide suc­cour to the af­fected, the call by Chief Min­is­ter Omar Ab­dul­lah to the Prime Min­is­ter not to post­pone the up­com­ing assem­bly elec­tions in J&K is rather strange and in­di­cates his fo­cus is limited to how to cash upon sym­pa­thy votes be­cause of the res­cue, re­lief and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion – well know­ing that con­sid­er­ing the dam­age in­clud­ing the man­ner in which in­di­vid­ual houses and prop­er­ties have been rav­aged, re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion is go­ing to be a long-drawn process. If he re­ally both­ered about the pop­u­la­tion, he should have stopped the colo­nial prac­tice of mov­ing the win­ter cap­i­tal of the state to warmer Jammu, some­thing his fa­ther and grand­fa­ther rev­elled in, leav­ing the Kashmir Val­ley to the cold win­ter sans ad­e­quate elec­tric­ity and wa­ter frozen in pipes. In fact con­sid­er­ing the calamity and mis­ery of the peo­ple be­cause of the cur­rent floods, com­ing win­ter is the time to stop the colo­nial prac­tice of shift­ing the cap­i­tal to Jammu dur­ing win­ter. It is just the ges­ture ac­tu­ally for him be­cause even while stay­ing on in Srinagar not much would change in the lux­u­ri­ous life­style of the Chief Min­is­ter. While Omar Ab­dul­lah’s dis­dain to the mil­i­tary is well known, at this time of se­ri­ous calamity ques­tions are be­ing asked about com­plete ab­sence of anti In­dia pro­tes­tors and stone pel­ters; de­man­ders of in­de­pen­dence; slam­mers of se­cu­rity forces; where are the ji­hadists; where is the Hur­riyat; where are Gee­la­nis, Yasin Ma­liks et al? Ul­ti­mately it is Gov­ern­ment of In­dia and the in­dian armed forces which are stak­ing their lives to help the Kash­miris. The In­dian armed forces are In­dia’s shield and sword, which keep our in­ter­ests safe, our en­e­mies at bay and the peo­ple of our coun­try se­cure and free. They will al­ways be the last bas­tion, as even many Pres­i­dents have pub­licly ac­knowl­edged in the past.

The res­cue and re­lief op­er­a­tion by In­dian Army

Mis­sion Sa­hay­ata by In­dian Army in Jammu and Kashmir

While Chief Min­is­ter Omar Ab­dul­lah’s dis­dain to the mil­i­tary is well known, ul­ti­mately it is Gov­ern­ment of In­dia and the In­dian armed forces which are stak­ing their lives to help the Kash­miris

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