Political parties in Kashmir slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Rs 745-crore relief package for the flood-hit state on Friday, saying it was a “cruel joke” and fell way short of expectations after the worst flooding in decades.
Kashmiris were expecting a Rs 44,000 crore-package during Modi’s Diwali visit to help rehabilitate thousands of people who lost their homes in the devastating floods, but the prime minister earmarked a far lower Rs 570 crore for renovation of flood-hit houses. The rest was to rebuild six hospitals in the state.
``I have come to the state today to show solidarity with people of the state. I have always maintained that the calamity is not only for the people of the state, it is a calamity for the entire country. The nation stands with the people of the valley,'' the prime minister said on Thursday when he met delegations of flood-affected people, traders, Sikh and Pandit groups as well as representatives of various political parties.
But political parties were not impressed, with the Congress party describing the package as “a cruel joke”.
"Modi's announcement is like adding insult to the injury. It showed his casual approach to give a helping hand to the people ravaged by the severest flood in their recorded history," said Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee chief Saifuddin Soz.
The ruling National Congress and chief minister Omar Abdullah were also disappointed with the relief package.
“If it's the final relief amount, then we are disappointed. We are hopeful to get Rs 44,000 crore as proposed by us. Besides the housing sector, our private sector and infrastructure need impetus," said National Conference spokesman Junaid Azim Mattu.
The BJP hit out at the Congress and the National Conference, saying they were trying to politicise every issue.
“The two parties do not understand the pain and grief of those who have lost their family, homes and what not. The PM went there to share their grief, but the Congress had problem with that as well. This shows their negative state of mind,” said BJP spokesman Anil Baluni.
“Our government is committed to proper and adequate relief and rehabilitation exercise there, irrespective of the cynicism of our political opponents.”
Separatists, who organised a shutdown during the prime minister’s trip, described the visit as "politically motivated" and aimed at assembly elections due by early next year. The Bharatiya Janata Party is hoping to expand its support beyond the Hindu-majority region of Jammu to the Muslim-majority Valley and is aiming for 44 seats in the 87-member assembly.
"The real aim of the visit to Kashmir was to further his political interests in the wake of the sham assembly elections. He was not even remotely concerned about the sufferings and hardships faced by the Kashmiris," said moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
Muslim Conference head Shabir Ahmad Dar, a constituent of the moderate faction of the Hurriyat led by Shabir Ahmad Shah, said the prime minister's visit was intended to only meet the armed forces in Siachen.
"The relief amount is so small that it cannot rehabilitate even a mohalla, forget Kashmir," he said.