J-K: Recuperating after a massive deluge

  • Toufiq Rashid, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Sep 21, 2014 00:17 IST

The tears have dried up on 75-year-old Zoona’s wrinkled face, but they have left a trail. A resident of Akhoon Mohalla in the interiors of the Dal lake area, Zoona is living with 30 members of her family at a relief camp in Lal Bazaar’s Baghwanpora. At least 40 families from this locality of vegetable growers have lost everything in the floods that devastated the state about two weeks ago.

Most houses in the locality are made of brick and mud. “About 80% of the houses in our mohalla are damaged. We are left with nothing but the clothes we left our homes in,’’ said Ghulam Hassan Akoon, another resident of the camp.

Around 50,000 of those who live around the Dal — suppliers of vegetables to the entire Valley — have similar stories to tell. The entire crop of the famous Kashmiri nadru (lotus stem) was ready for harvest when the Jhelum waters entered the lake, submerging the surrounding areas. “Winter is approaching. How are we going to survive!” wonders Ahkoon.


Counting their losses

Initial estimates by Assocham, an consortium of companies and business professionals, has put the state’s losses at a staggering Rs 5,400-5,700 crores, a figure that exceeds 10% of the state’s GDP. Business in the Valley has been hit severely due to the damage to hotels, restaurants, and the horticulture and handicraft

industries, among others. At the city’s commercial centre, Amira Kadal, Shafat Ahmad, 55, who owns a shop of electronic goods, estimates a loss of over a crore. On average, each shop in the area has lost goods worth one to two crores. A little ahead is the shawl and handicrafts lane in the Koker Bazar area of Lal Chowk. Here, dealers say the water has spoiled their expensive yarn. Insurance does not cover damage caused due to the floods. For Nasood Shuza, who owns the Darsons Silks and Cottons in Srinagar, it has been a chain of losses. Shuza lives in Jawahar Nagar, one of the worst-affected areas, and so do some of his employees. "We will have to procure raw silk from Bangalore or China, which will not be cost-effective," said Shuza. Besides the supply, even the demand may be hit. "People will spend on rebuilding their homes. Who buys silk when basic necessities are a priority?" he added.

Schools — those run by the government and the elite private ones — and colleges are still under water. The courts too remain inundated. Ajaz Ahmad Mir, registrar at the High Court, said only a small%age of their records could be saved. Lawyers in the lower court feel that the probability of starting soon is low, since the lower court building was already in a shambles. At the office of the Srinagar Municipality in Karan Nagar, government officials are contending with the loss of old birth and death records. "We have computerised records only after 2010,’’ said Bashir Ahmad, the Joint Commissioner. Sanitation is also going to be a big challenge, he said. Hospitals have also been severely hit. Dead animals and heaps of garbage line the waterlogged lanes and bylanes making exposing citizens to the danger of disease. Health experts say the situation is alarming as the bodies need to be disposed immediately. "When the waters rose, no one could do anything. Rescue and relief work was also done by the locals. It seems even the government has been washed away,’’ said Rouf Khan, a resident of Srinagar.

Homeless at home
The President of the Maqdoom Sahib Dargah’s management committee, Showkat Ahmad Maqdoomi said hundreds of people had left their palatial houses in posh areas like Rajbagh and Jawahar Nagar and taken refuge in the shrine. “People came in expensive cars. That was the only thing they were left with,’’ he said. The stagnant water in submerged areas like Suthra Shahi, behind the municipality office, continues to bother residents. The area, one of the worst affected, has lost 32 houses to the flood. “These 100 houses were built in 1959 for mostly Class IV employees. They are old constructions which have been totally damaged,’’ said Rouf Ahmad Wani, president of the area’s Resident’s Welfare Association. ML Seru, a Kashmiri Pandit, who chose not to leave the Valley in the 1990s, is one of the unfortunate victims. The Seru house, an old construction of mud and brick has collapsed. His son Sidharth Seru, who runs a small private school in the area says that what violence could not do, the water has done. “The water has displaced us, there is nothing left,’’ he said.


With inputs from Sukhdeep Kaur

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