Omar declares cyclone as natural calamity across J&K

Omar declares cyclone as natural calamity across J&K

22 March 2012
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today declared two days cyclone in the entire State as 'natural calamity' and announced that all those people affected by it, partially or severely, would be compensated as per the norms. He allayed apprehensions of the Nationalist Panthers Party (NPP) members that the Government was discriminating in sanction of relief for Jammu and Kashmir regions. Making a statement during Question Hour in response to uproar by the People's Democratic Party (PDP) members, Omar said it was not a windstorm only but cyclone. 'A windstorm is declared as cyclone if the winds blew with the speed of 35 knots. On the intervening night of March 19 and 20, the winds speed was measured at 40 knots', he said, adding the cyclone has caused extensive damage across the Kashmir valley and some parts of Jammu province especially the border district of Poonch. The Chief Minister told the Assembly that the Government has decided to declare cyclone as natural calamity and the Civil Secretariat would issue an order to this effect this afternoon. Official sources confirmed that the order has been issued declaring cyclonic storm as natural calamity, which would help the Deputy Commissioners to assess losses and distribute relief from the Natural Calamity Relief Funds as per the norms set by the Government. Asserting that he visited various cyclone affected parts of the Kashmir valley during last two days for a first hand information of the situation, Omar described the damages as 'immense' and assured the House that the victims would be adequately compensated. Several PDP members including Abdul Rehman Veeri, Abdul Gaffar Sofi, Javed Mustafa Mir, Peer Mansoor Shah, Abdul Haq Khan and Syed Bashir demanded that compensation should be equal to the damages suffered by the people and not token like ' 2000 or ' 5000. Omar said Relief, Revenue and Rehabilitation Minister (Raman Bhalla) and Minister of State for Revenue (Nasir Aslam Wani) have been deputed to the Kashmir valley. They were conducting aerial survey of the damages and would be submitting a detailed report to the Government shortly enabling it to sanction relief. He said the Deputy Commissioners would distribute relief on the basis of reports of damages. Responding to concerns of NPP MLAs including Harshdev Singh, Balwant Singh Mankotia and Yashpal Kundal on discrimination in sanction of relief, the Chief Minister said 'I don't know how Harshdev has developed doubts that there would be discrimination in sanction of relief. 'We have neither played politics over natural tragedies nor resorted to discrimination in sanction of relief on the basis of regions. The Deputy Commissioners have been told to assess losses and distribute relief according to the extent of damages. The relief distribution would start after assessment of damages'. The NPP MLAs clarified that they were expressing concern over previous relief for Udhampur and Samba districts, which has not been sanctioned so far. Omar said the windstorm has left three persons dead, 39 injured and affected over 16,000 structures, severely and partially across the State on March 19 and 20. 'The windstorm claimed 3 lives while 39 persons received injuries. The tornado damaged residential houses, non-residential structures, public service infrastructure including power distribution system and school buildings (numbering 16,790) across the State,' Omar said. He pointed out that the windstorm speed was of 40 knots and the cyclone crossing 35 knots constituted natural calamity. 'In all, 12,475 residential houses were damaged partially in Kashmir and Jammu provinces. Of these, partially damaged houses in Kashmir valley accounted for 11,641 while it stood 834 in Jammu province. Totally damaged houses in Kashmir are 95 while in Jammu province the number is 36', he said. Similarly, 4,074 non-residential buildings suffered minor damages in Kashmir and two such structures - one mosque and a temple in Jammu, Omar said. No death was reported in Jammu province. Out of the 98 school buildings damaged, 42 are in Kashmir while 56 are in Jammu province, the Chief Minister said. He said that he had called an emergency meeting in Srinagar on March 20 and visited various areas to take first hand account of the windstorm. The Chief Minister said that the distribution of relief by the concerned Deputy Commissioners would start soon as the order for declaring the windstorm as natural calamity was made available to them. 'The Deputy Commissioners have been given clear directions to remain apolitical in the distribution of relief to the affected people', he said. 'Politics has no role to play in such incidents where humanity has suffered,' he said that playing politics in the distribution of relief will not be allowed. 'We are never in favour of it and will not allow it to happen,' Omar said. He added that the tentative losses ascertained by the Power Development Department (PDD) were to the tune of ' 4.66 crores in Kashmir while losses in Jammu province especially in Poonch are being assessed. Earlier as soon as the Question Hour began, the PDP members and some other MLAs were on their feet seeking relief for the devastation caused by the windstorm. The members took their seats when Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Sagar intervened saying that the Chief Minister has himself visited several areas on ground in Valley and reviewed meetings with officers and that he would be making a statement in the House himself. Meanwhile, BJP MLAs Ashok Khajuria, Jugal Kishore Sharma and Choudhary Sukhnandan, NPP MLAs Harshdev Singh and Balwant Singh Mankotia and JSM legislator Ashwani Sharma were also on their feet at the start of Question Hour drawing attention of the Government towards West Pakistani refugees, whose march to Parliament was yesterday thwarted by Delhi Police. Displaying copies of the newspapers, the BJP MLAs were demanding citizenship rights and other facilities for the West Pakistani refugees, for which they have been agitating for last 65 years. Seeking a statement from the Government, the BJP, NPP and JSM legislators said the West Pakistani refugees, who had gone to New Delhi to draw attention of the Parliament towards their plight, were canecharged by Delhi Police and not allowed to reach the Parliament House. 'Refugeeon Ka Masla Hal Karo, Hal Karo' repeatedly rented the House as BJP, NPP and JSM MLAs continued their protest. BJP MLA Ashok Khajuria charged the State Government with ignoring West Pakistani refugees only because of the fact that they were Hindus, Sikhs and Scheduled Castes. He charged the Government with making mockery of the West Pakistani refugees. BJP MLAs-Ashok Khajuria, Jugal Kishore Sharma and Choudhary Sukhnandan, NPP MLA Balwant Singh Mankotia and JSM legislator Ashwani Sharma later staged a walk-out in the House in support of the demands of West Pakistani refugees.