Pressure is mounting on chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to withdraw support to the BJP in the wake of “meagre” reconstruction and rehabilitation package announced by the Centre for the flood-ravaged state.
Coming together, several Kashmir-based civil society groups and traders’ bodies --- which include Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Kashmir Economic Alliance, Kashmir Hotels and Restaurant Association, Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Owners Federation, and Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation --- have asked the PDP to pull out of the alliance with the BJP.
“The relief amount is shocking and unfortunate. We reject the package and appeal to the chief minister to pull out. This amount in no way will help rebuild the damaged houses or resurrect the traders facing debts and loans. We foresee grim days ahead,” said KCCI president Sheikh Ashiq.
The Centre on Tuesday announced an additional amount of `1,667 crore for Jammu and Kashmir, which was ravaged in last year’s floods. Only around `550 crore has been earmarked for relief and rehabilitation in the package.
The state government had submitted `44,000-crore relief package to the Centre.
The civil society members and traders also criticised state finance minister Haseeb Drabu for welcoming the package.
A total of 6,782 villages, of which 741 remained submerged for weeks, were flooded, affecting 18 lakhs households, say official figures.
Out of 21,485 damaged houses, 4,700 were damaged severely, but only around 1,690 house owners have received compensations.
“The government is bound to rehabilitate people. We ask (PDP) MLAs to resign and join their people,” said Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA-Y) chairperson Muhammad Yasin Khan.
Noted civil society activist Shakeel Qalandar accused the Centre of discrimination. “When Uttarakhand flood-affected population gets `7 lakh for a damaged house why not Kashmir?” asked Qalander.
Asking New Delhi to release `3,00,000 crore to J&K as losses incurred to the state economy due to the Indus Water Treaty signed between India and Pakistan, Qalander said, “NHPC should hand over power projects back to the state and allow it to rehabilitate flood victims on its own.”
The traders are meeting the government officials and threatened to start agitation in case of failure to provide succor to the flood victims.
Expressing surprise over the Centre’s package, National Conference working president Omar Abdullah said, “Why can't you just tell us how much of the `44,000 crore package is going to be approved instead of this sanction in drips & drabs?”
The relief package is infusing anger among local population and PDP leaders too.
PDP leader and Member of Parliament Tariq Hameed Karra described the relief package as “cruel joke.”
“The Centre brought to fore its inherent bias towards Kashmiris, which has over the years aggravated the trust-deficit and alienation in the Valley. It’s grossly inadequate and also speaks of the perceptible bias in the Centre’s attitude towards Kashmir,” said Karra.
He said if the Centre continues with same prejudiced approach towards Kashmir, the PDP should rethink on its relation with the BJP as continuation in the coalition seems to be doing more damage to both Kashmiris and the party.
Another senior PDP leader and party general secretary Rafi Mir admitted that the party’s image is taking a dent. “The package cannot solve the problem and is far below our expectations. The government should pursue with the Centre strongly for more fund availability,” said Mir.
A total of Rs 5,039 crore provided so far
Rs 1,667 crore additional funds released for relief and reconstruction on Tuesday
Rs 1,602 crore already released from National Disaster Response Fund and State Disaster Response Fund
Rs 1000 crore has been released as additional special plan assistance
Rs 770 crore sanctioned under the Prime Minister National Relief Fund.
Destruction in numbers
18 lakh houses were destroyed in floods.
According to government officials, 6,782 villages were flooded, out of which 741 stayed in water for months.
The government has granted `75,000 for fully damaged house, and `12,500 for severely damaged and `3,800 for partially damaged.
The government assessment shows only 1,690 affected house owners were compensated.