PM To Spend Diwali In Kashmir, Meet Flood Victims; Review Relief Ops

21 October 2014
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: In a rare and significant gesture, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be spending Diwali festival with people of flood affected Kashmir on October 23 and review facilities, relief, rehabilitation and further compensation for them with Governor NN Vohra and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. This will be Modi's fourth visit to Jammu and Kashmir (including third to Kashmir only) in his less than five months tenure as the Prime Minister. Modi made the announcement of spending Diwali festival with Kashmir flood victims on twitter this afternoon. 'Will be in Srinagar on Diwali, October 23 & will spend the day with our sisters & brothers affected by the unfortunate flood,' Modi tweeted. Official sources told the Excelsior that Modi will reach Srinagar at 1.30 pm and proceed to Raj Bhawan, where he will meet flood affected people including a number of women and children to know personally the problems faced by them post-floods in the Valley. Several flood affected people from different parts of the Valley will personally meet the Prime Minister and explain their problems. Representatives of some organizations could also meet Modi. Later, the Prime Minister will have high level review of post-flood situation including relief and rehabilitation measures undertaken by the State Government and Central agencies and the help required from the Centre to boost the relief operations with the Governor, the Chief Minister and other top representatives of the Government. He is likely to visit one of the relief camps in Srinagar to know condition of the flood victims before flying back to New Delhi at 6 pm. Sources said Rs 44,000 crores worth memo for special Central package to Jammu and Kashmir to re-build damaged infrastructure, public property and initiate other relief measures was likely to be discussed during the Prime Minister's talks with the Chief Minister. This will be a rare occasion in the history when the Prime Minister will be spending Diwali festival with the victims of a tragedy instead of his residence. On his birthday last month, Modi had asked his supporters not to celebrate it and instead donate the money for flood victims of Jammu and Kashmir. This will be Modi's fourth visit to Jammu and Kashmir in less than five months tenure. He had visited Katra, the base camp of holy cave shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi ji in July to inaugurate train to Katra and Kashmir to dedicate Uri-II to the nation. In August, he had visited Leh and Kargil to dedicate power projects to the people. In September, he had immediately visited Jammu and Srinagar after floods struck the State. The Diwali visit will be his fourth to Jammu and Kashmir. Meanwhile, Dr Jitendra Singh, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Science and technology and Earth Science and MoS PMO will be reaching Srinagar tomorrow ahead of Modi's visit to the Valley on the occasion of Diwali festival. Sources said soon after reaching the summer capital, Dr Singh will hold a meeting with the State administration to review the arrangements for tomorrow's visit by the Prime Minister. Dr Singh is also scheduled to call on Governor NN Vohra tomorrow evening. He will meet representatives of civil society and assess their views in the aftermath of floods in the Valley. He will receive the Prime Minister in Srinagar along with senior State functionaries on October 23. Union Home Secretary Anil Goswami today had another round of review of relief and rehabilitation operations with the administration in Srinagar. He also met representatives of trade and other organizations and discussed with them the damages suffered during worst ever flood in Kashmir in the first week of September. Goswami returned to New Delhi today after two days visit to Srinagar. Prior to him, two high level Central teams of various Ministries headed by Joint Secretary Home M Gopal Reddy had visited Jammu and Kashmir regions separately for three days to ascertain flood losses in the wake of Rs 44,000 crores worth package sought by the State. Modi has already announced Rs 1,000 crore for rehabilitation of the State and promised to do whatever else the Government can. According to official figures, the floods destroyed 1.04 lakh houses across the State while over 1.5 lakh houses suffered partial damage due to the natural calamity. Official figures put the number of people living in tents at less than one lakh. However, the number of homeless in Kashmir is believed to be close to six lakh people as most of them are putting up with relatives, friends or in rented accommodation. The State Government has submitted to the Centre a memorandum of losses due to floods to the tune of Rs 44,000 crore. A major chunk of the package pertains to compensation in respect of the houses destroyed or damaged in the floods, rebuilding Government infrastructure etc. According to the proposal, the State Government has sought a payment of ex-gratia relief against the loss of private structures to the tune of Rs 9 lakh for fully damaged pucca house, Rs 6 lakh for fully damaged kucha house, Rs 4 lakh for partially damaged kucha and pucca houses and Rs one lakh for other structures. It has also sought housing loans up to Rs 20 lakh at four per cent interest only for those affected families whose houses are fully damaged. PTI adds from Srinagar: thousands of people rendered homeless by the deluge in Jammu and Kashmir last month are pinning their hopes on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Diwali visit to the Valley, expecting him to announce a substantial package that can help them rebuild their homes before the onset of winter. 'We are hopeful that the Prime Minister, who has decided to spend Diwali in Srinagar, will announce a good package for the flood victims so that we can start picking up the threads of life again,' Ghulam Ahmad, who is putting up with his family in a tent at Batmaloo, said. Ahmad is one of the over one lakh house owners in Jammu and Kashmir whose dwellings were destroyed by the century's worst ever floods in the State. Many flood victims feel that Modi's visit will not be just symbolic and the Prime Minister will announce a comprehensive plan so that the State and its people are able to rebuild the infrastructure destroyed by the floods. A major worry for the flood victims is the onset of winter as they are left with less than a month of working season in Kashmir. 'If the homeless people are not able to start construction within a week, they will have to wait till April next year as the concrete does not set in well during sub-zero temperatures,' Abdul Gaffar, a mason, said. The Government has plans to procure prefabricated structures for housing the homeless people during the winter months. In the first phase, 500 prefabricated huts will be procured. The weather has so far been kind to the flood victims as the day temperatures are hovering around 20 degrees Celsius, which is only one degree below the normal for this time of the year while the minimum temperature last night was seven degrees Celsius - two degrees above normal.