With Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir that witnessed the worst floods in last century refusing to limp back to normalcy, desperation among the people for immediate relief is on the rise. Jammu and Kashmir state’s capacity to deal with the crisis has been exposed and with the clear magnitude unraveling each passing day, the call for opening the channels for international aid are growing louder.
In Delhi the Narendra Modi led government has indicated its reservations to the foreign aid for rebuilding Kashmir. But experts are of the view that this gigantic task is beyond the resources even Government of India could mobilize. For restoring the glory of flood-affected areas, opening of the routes for aid from different sources are inevitable. On Monday,Jammu and Kashmir’s Chief Secretary Mohammad Iqbal Khanday said that it was not just the national disaster. “This was not a disaster of national but international ramifications,” he told a news conference. Both the government and non-government experts are in agreement that the losses to property and the businesses were to the tune of Rs 1 trillion. This clearly shows the magnitude and the challenges are in store to reconstruct Kashmir. According to the government across the State, 12.5 lakh families have been affected due to floods. Rough estimate, the housing sector in Kashmir has suffered losses over Rs 30,000 crore while the business sector had suffered losses worth more than Rs 70,000 crore.
[quote]Kashmiris living outside India cannot contribute to relief and rehabilitation[/quote]
In other words the government has endorsed the estimates made by business experts only a week after the floods hit the Valley. Shakeel Qalandar, former President of Federation of Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK) is of the view that these losses could pile up after “we come to know about the exact damage caused by the floods”. Since the government has failed to even provide relief to the affected families in the initial days, there is less hope for comprehensive and well-planned rehabilitation. So far the New Delh government has not shown much interest in reaching out to the people and the state apparatus (most of that was submerged) also failed the people. Anger among the affected population is also on the rise, as they fear worst in the coming days with winter setting in the next two weeks. Both the governments in Srinagar and Delhi have even failed in assuring them of rehabilitation. Only the usual and routine interim relief, which is given in an “accepted magnitude” of disasters, has been promised.
But the way the offers of international aid have been virtually rejected, it has led to frustration among the already alienated population in Kashmir. Soon after the crisis unfolded the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon had offered assistance, and so had other international aid organisations. However, Delhi’s refusal has discouraged them from promising anything in rebuilding Kashmir. Those pleading the case for the foreign aid are arguing that it was not within the capacity of Government of India to rebuild Kashmir the way it was before September 6 so the only way to do it is to accept this aid. Separatists including Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq have been calling for lifting the restrictions. Mirwaiz went to the extent of saying that there was no problem if GOI monitors the flow of aid. He had hopes from Organisation of Islamic Conference and other donors all over. Ironically the Kashmiris living outside India cannot contribute to the relief and rehabilitation programme. Shakeel Qalandar argues that when GOI accepted aid in similar situation in other parts of India, “why is there discrimination in case of Kashmir?”. In December 2004 when the Tusumani hit the coastal areas in India, it had first rejected the offers but later on accepted aid from IMF and World Bank. Leading South Asian expert and President of Washington-based Henry L Stimson centre Michael Krepon, who is known for his pro India leaning, questioned this approach. “New Delhi has adopted an enlightened approach to helping Pakistan during this tragedy, and a backward approach to accepting foreign humanitarian assistance on its side of the Kashmir divide,” he wrote in a recent article referring to 2005 earthquake. By terming it as an International disaster the state government has also started pitching for the international aid.
One must acknowledge the role of Indian civil society, voluntary organisations and individuals right from Coimbatore, Chennai, Banglore, Pune, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi and Kolkatta who generously supported the people here in this time of crisis. They sent unimaginable number of truckloads of medicine, food, water, clothing and other stuff to Kashmir to mitigate the sufferings. Our heartfelt gratitude to this philanthropy is not enough. But the government needs to rethink its stance on the issue of international aid.
The situation in Kashmir , only makes we Indians feel ashamed