State Disaster Management Authority Caught Off Guard

5 September 2014
Rising Kashmir
Faisul Yaseen

Srinagar: Chief Minister Omar Abdullah oversaw rescue and relief operations till 3:30 am on Friday but had the State's Disaster Management Authority that CM heads been proactive, the damage could have been limited. Most people living near embankments said though rains were incessant and floods inevitable, the damage could have been restricted had the government been prepared. 'The government's Flood and Irrigation department never carries repairs of the embankments and there is no such thing as a disaster management authority in Kashmir,' said Showkat Ahmad Bhat, a resident of old Barazulla locality of Srinagar uptown. He said locals were caught unawares as authorities had not even sounded alert when water rose over the alarming levels. Yasir Ahmad, a resident of Mehjoor Nagar, said the government was now talking about disaster management although government would never send any team to spread awareness about disaster management among the people of flood-prone areas. The government has set up a State Disaster Management Authority, which is headed by the chief minister. Besides, a State-level executive committee for review and implementation of funds is headed by the Chief Secretary. Furthermore, all Deputy Commissioners are the chairmen of the District Disaster Management Authority while the Divisional Commissioners head the authority for the provinces. Talking to Rising Kashmir, MoS (Independent Charge) Revenue, Relief and Rehabilitation, Aijaz Khan said the government was prepared but the calamity was enormous. 'We have disaster managements committees in every district and appropriate funds for them but no one can predict of a calamity of this kind,' Khan said. 'The revenue ministry gives appropriate funds to Irrigation and Flood Control department for repairing bunds and embankments.' He said this time, water rose over the bunds and embankments and even the repairs could not have prevented the water from coming over into residential areas. 'The State has suffered a huge loss and these floods are the worst calamity I have seen all my life,' Khan said. Government of India releases funds to the State for the disaster management as per the requirements and norms fixed under the GoI Act. Commissioner Secretary Agriculture, Asgar Samoon said the government always remains prepared for natural calamity and disasters. 'We have a State Disaster Management Force which works with the Police department,' said Samoon, who has remained the Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir in the past. 'Government of India also sends forces to help the State in times of calamities.' He said GoI had a countrywide network of disaster management wings in addition to the disaster management wings of the states. 'The disaster management is a continuous process and it has to be updated,' Samoon said. 'Control rooms are set up for every type of calamity.' He said a system was in place but how the people in that system were working was a different question. 'Everything is in place and government is always prepared for disasters,' Samoon said. 'Individuals may come and go but the system remains.'