Facing increasing public anger over failure during recent flood fury, senior bureaucrats representing key departments, except for flood and irrigation that was at the eye of the storm, on Saturday presented a report card of performance during recent floods before the public.
Chief engineers of key departments of public health engineering (PHE), power development department (PDD), consumer affairs and public distribution (CAPD) and urban environment engineering department (UEED) addressed a rare media interaction in Srinagar at the behest of ministers and had to brave tough questions on the government failures in relief and restoration of services.
"We have been directed by our ministers to apprise the media of facts. We are not used to it," admitted PHE chief engineer A M Lanker.
Out of 1938 water schemes, 1321 were affected by floods that hit the Valley on September 7. "1225 schemes have been restored. However, these are temporary restoration and permanent restoration will take time and more funds," said Lanker.
Claiming to have been able to work through floods, Lanker said, "Srinagar faced water problem because 100 lift stations out of 601 being submerged. But we have restored water supply now," he added.
PWD chief engineer SK Razdan painted a grim picture of devastation wreaked by the floods. "Around 288 bridges were damaged and collapsing of 54 bridges did affect connecting in south Kashmir and Srinagar. Around 301 culverts were damaged too. Similarly, 127 km of roadways were washed away. But we have been able to restore connectivity now," said Razdan.
Razdan warned the population whose houses were submerged for weeks together to observe the structures. "There are chances of settling of soil and those structures that look normal may develop cracks. We have to monitor structures for next three months," he said.
He said the PWD has declared all main city hospitals, like SMHS and JVC left defunct due to submergence, safe for functioning now, except for a portion of JVC.
"We have assessed schools in districts other than Srinagar. In Srinagar, we continue to assess school structure. The damage is colossal and will take time," he added.
According to the PDD figures, 35,000 souls remain without electricity even after 25 days of floods. "However, we have been able to restore more than 90% electricity in all districts in the Valley," said PDD chief engineer.
Bilal Ahmad, CAPD director, admitted that up to September 17 there was unorganised distribution of grains in the Valley.
"We have now decided to distribute free ration only among flood affected population," said Ahmad, reversing the old government order of free ration to all in Srinagar.
Srinagar has been cleared of 95% flood water now, informed UEED chief engineer Hanief Lone. The government seems in a firefighting mode. It was second media interaction of senior bureaucrats in a week's time. These media meets come in the background of chief minister Omar Abdullah government drawing flak over its 'failure' to live up to people's expectations during the floods.
Srinagar witnessed a collapse of governance for around three days with people left fending for themselves, starting September 7. The government has now started a major image makeover to win back public confidence.