The Centre paid the army Rs 500 crore for rescue operations during last year’s devastating floods in Jammu and Kashmir out of a disaster relief package given to the state, documents show, triggering sharp criticism in the Valley.
A February 6 letter accessed by television channel NDTV says the home ministry told the state money was taken out of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) to pay defence ministry bills for “airdropping of essential supplies and rescue”.
This angered state opposition leaders who said a natural disaster was being exploited for money amid mounting calls for the Peoples Democratic Party to quit a troubled alliance with the BJP.
“How can they charge people for rescuing them? It is insensitive that we are still suffering from aftermath of the devastation and they are asking for money,'' said National Conference spokesperson Junaid Azim Mattu.
Defence ministry sources, however, said it was routine to deduct expenses during rescue operations from relief packages and the same had been done with Operation Megh Rahat in J&K.
A defence ministry spokesperson based in Delhi said his office was collecting details on the issue.
Mattu asked if India was going to bill Nepal for similar rescue undertaken during the recent earthquake. “If they were doing things on humanitarian grounds there, what were they doing here then?'' he said.
The September 2014 floods were the worst to hit the state in over a century and left over half a million people marooned, killing more than 280 people. Thousands of homes collapsed and infrastructure worth crores was damaged, bringing the border state to its knees.
The state government asked for a relief package of R 44,000 crore but the Centre approved only R1,602 crores to be paid to the SDRF, triggering angry reactions from the J&K administration who said the allocation was not adequate.
According to the government, nearly 200,000 people, including tourists, were rescued and essential supplies such as food, water and medicines were airdropped during Operation Megh Rahat.