Relief Given To Flood-hit In Valley Inadequate, Says House Panel

25 May 2015
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Ehsan Fazili & Ishfaq Tantry

Srinagar: The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment & Forests, headed by MP and former Union Minister Ashwani Kumar, today stated that the relief and compensation given to the flood-hit in Kashmir was inadequate and unacceptable. It pitched for liberal financial assistance by the Centre to the state to cope with the challenges in the aftermath of the September 2014 floods. The committee also emphasised that there was a need to go for 'massive dredging and desilting of the Jhelum and other water bodies on a war footing. 'Though the J&K Government has told us that it has done or is doing whatever is in its capacity, a lot more still needs to be done,' Ashwani Kumar, MP and chairman of the 16-member Parliamentary Standing Committee told reporters here at a press conference after a review meeting with state government officials. The committee which arrived on a four-day visit of the Kashmir valley on Saturday also interacted with civil society, NGOs and visited flood-affected hospitals, educational and other institutions in the past two days. The current amount of relief and compensation given to the flood-hit is not adequate and is unacceptable, Ashwani said. The committee, in its report which is to be submitted within four weeks and also to be presented to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, would highlight these concerns, he added. 'The committee is of the view that the Central government should give liberal financial assistance to J&K to cope with the massive relief and rehabilitation measures, needed in the aftermath of the September floods,' Ashwani said. The government also needs to undertake on a war footing massive desilting and dredging of the Jhelum and other flood channels in the short term and focus on other mid-term and long-term flood mitigation plans, for which the Central government also needs to respond by 'close and liberal funding'. During their interactions with NGOs and government officials, the committee observed that a new system to facilitate the discharge of the Jhelum waters would be required to prevent the September-like floods in Kashmir in future. Sources said almost all issues faced by the flood-affected people and issues such as discharge of household waste into the Dal Lake, presence of eight cement plants near Srinagar city, concerns over the Dal and Wular lakes, Jhelum threat to the catchment areas due to illegal constructions, deforestation and lack of aforestation and violation of the Srinagar Master Plan came up for discussion during the interactions with civil society members and government. Earlier, while talking to The Tribune on the sidelines of one such interaction today, Rajya Sabha MP from Punjab Ashwani Kumar said: 'In our deliberations, we found eminent citizens of Kashmir giving vent to their anguish and anger at the apathy shown by the Central government to the miseries of people during and after the floods,' he said. The Central government has to come up with a credible action plan to prevent and mitigate the effect of such occurrences in future. Health services have completely broken down and large-scale encroachment of wetlands, catchment areas and the destruction of forests and water bodies is a painful reality in the heaven on earth, committee members observed.