Military’s contribution to J&K flood relief
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