Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to announce a relief and rehabilitation package for flood-hit people in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday. “Will be in Srinagar on Diwali October 23 and will spend the day with our sisters and brothers affected by the unfortunate flood,” Modi tweeted.
The PM is likely to meet governor NN Vohra and chief minister Omar Abdullah at Raj Bhawan on arriving in Srinagar a little after noon. Abdullah met Modi in Delhi on September 23 and asked for a Rs 44,000-crore compensation package from the Centre for the devastation caused by the worst floods to hit the state in a century.
Modi will also hold meetings with hotel and houseboat owners and traders as he promised to spend time with the “sisters and brothers affected by the unfortunate flood”. Officials said that the Prime Minister may also visit a relief camp where dozens of flood-battered families have taken shelter.
Abdul Rehman and Shakeela Bano are among many deluge-hit families living in camps near the river Jhelum, pinning their hopes of rehabilitation on Modi as the bone-chilling winter sets in.
“We welcome this gesture, but Modiji’s Diwali will become our Eid if we get some sort of compensation for our losses,” said Abdul, a daily wage earner originally from Kargil.
Flash floods and landslides triggered by heavy monsoon rains last month flattened houses, bridges and dams, killing dozens of people and leaving thousands stranded across the state.
“It’s only October and the weather has become very cold. What will we do in the winter months? We have lost everything and don't even have money for paying rent. Even a small room somewhere will do,” Shakeela said.
While many are hoping for relief, Modi’s visit has taken a political turn with separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani saying it’s a stunt aimed at the next state election. “Everybody left us to die when the floods came. What will these visits do now?” he asked.
Local BJP leaders, however, said the visit was an attempt to tell the people that “the PM feels their pain and will not leave them alone in the time of trouble.”
Mainstream politicians from the ruling National Conference (NC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) expect Modi’s trip to be more than a mere gesture. The NC is waiting to see how close the PM’s announcement comes to the proposed Rs 44,000-crore package.
Abdullah welcomed the visit and tweeted his appreciation. “Let’s just appreciate that @narendramodi is in Srinagar on his festival & not at home celebrating as he normally would have been doing.”
PDP, the principal opposition party in the state, also welcomed the visit, but said that Eid would have been “a more appropriate time.”
“It’s a good gesture and we hope that the Prime Minister’s visit lends some pace to the relief and rehabilitation work in the Valley,” said party spokesperson Nayeem Akhtar.
This will be Narendra Modi’s fourth trip to Jammu and Kashmir since taking charge as the Prime Minister on May 26.