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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

Month after flood fury, Valley's new war cry 'Kashmir will rise again'

Amidst heaps of slush, empty shops, debris and clouds of dust, Srinagar's posh colony Jawahar Nagar, housing big businessmen and bureaucrats, is dotted with brightly coloured banners these days: "Kashmir will rise again."

india Updated: Oct 11, 2014 19:24 IST
Peerzada Ashiq
Peerzada Ashiq
Hindustan Times

Amidst heaps of slush, empty shops, debris and clouds of dust, Srinagar's posh colony Jawahar Nagar, housing big businessmen and bureaucrats, is dotted with brightly coloured banners these days: "Kashmir will rise again."

The resilience of Srinagar where 70% of the city with 14 lakh population was marooned on September 6-7 for weeks together is evident with people returning to the homes after one month. Many decided to celebrate Eid at homes but only on the second floor with no electricity.

"Ground floor walls are wet and stinky. It will take couple of months to dry up but we have shifted kitchen to top floor on the third storey and use first floor as bed rooms. But Eid has come as an occasion to return, reunite and restart. Generators keep our houses lit as electricity is yet to be restored," said Muhammad Yususf, a resident of Wazir Bagh.

Power development department chief engineer Muzaffar Mattu admits that 35,000 souls continue to live without electricity for over a month now. "We have restored 92% of electricity in Srinagar," said Mattu. During floods, only 30% population was provided with electricity supply.

Those who used to live in big mansions in the city's Rajbagh area are putting up in hotels. "Fallen compound walls have blocked inner roads. Floodwater has turned green gardens into one patch of mud. Silt has seeped everywhere, inside kitchen cabins, refrigerators too," said Imtiyaz Ahmad, a businessman. He has no complains. "Fate had it. We should accept it bravely," he said, as another banner "Kashmir shall rise again" adorns his colony.

The unprecedented floods of September, according to rough estimates, has cost the Valley's business community Rs 30,000 crore. "We are waiting for the insurance companies to release the insured sum to have the business community back on track," said Fayaz Punjabi, executive member of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries.

The high court has directed insurance companies to pay 50% of insured amount for policies above Rs 25 lakh and 95% for policies below Rs 25 lakh as interim relief.

Many shopkeepers have decided to go ahead with massive sales on soiled and dampened goods. "We are clearing stocks. We want to do away with old stocks that was least damaged," said Nazir Ahmad, a carpet seller at Hari Singh High Street. The market is buzzing with people buying exquisite carpets and other goods at cheaper prices.

Kashmir's entire business hub, from Rajbagh to Lal Chowk to Kara Nagar, has faced flood fury. In fact, residents were left with very few commercial hubs to shop for the Eid, delivering another jolt to business community. However, businessmen are borrowing and taking soft loans to resurrect themselves. One of the prominent electronics shops "Links" has reopened after a month, first among a few to revive Lal Chowk's old buzz.

Just 6 km away from Jawahar Nagar, a semblance of normalcy is returning to the Valley's premier government hospital, Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital, which caters to 70 lakh population as the main tertiary care. After 31 days, radiation oncology has started attending to cancer patients.

"The hospital has resumed the out patients department. Many trauma sections have been conducted so far. The ground floor of the hospital got inundated due to floods has been isolated. All diagnostic equipment would be placed on the first floor or above. Electricity, drinking water and oxygen supply at the hospital has been restored," said Dr Rafiq Pampori, principal, Government Medical College.

The government claims to have suffered Rs 460 crore damages to medical sector. The SMHS continues to run without CT Scan and other radio diagnosis facility. "We have tied up with private centres for X-rays and other medical tests. They will charge the same price the hospital used to," said health minister Taj Mohi-du-Din. The Valley's lone maternity hospital Lal Ded is back to admit patients and deliveries are taking place like old days once again.

Water supply and road connectivity is back on track now. "We face problems in areas like Raj Bagh where inner water lines too are damaged. Out of 1938 water schemes, 1321 were damaged and 1225 stands restored, though temporarily," said public health engineering chief engineer AM Lanker.

Public works department chief engineer SK Razdan claims 288 damaged bridges and 125 km damaged road have been attended to for "temporary connectivity".

With winters setting in, rebuilding of collapsed houses remains a colossal task. The government relief of Rs 75,000 for damaged concrete houses is too small to make a good beginning.

"The government should come forth to help us identifying unsafe houses in first place. With just two months for harsh winters to set in, rebuilding has to happen fast," said Feroz Khan, a resident of Padshahibagh, the worst hit in the floods.

The authorities warned of more slippage of structures in next three months with supersaturated soil drying up.

Many religious bodies like Jamiat Ahle Hadees and Awami Action Committee (AAC) have offered to help in rebuilding.

"We are planning to construct more than 100 houses for those in dire need at Rs 5.2 crore. Two rooms, kitchen and a bathroom are what we help them with," said AAC head Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.

The flood may have been backbreaking the state but people have started picking up threads with marriages picking up once again. The newspapers show up no cancellation notices anymore. "We have to carry on and come to terms as soon as possible," said Nazir Ahmad, who got his daughter married recently.

Valley's leading psychiatrist Dr Arshad Hussain is optimising about coping mechanism of conflict and natural disaster-torn residents of Kashmir. "Our past research in natural disasters like Waltengo snow tsunami and earthquakes at Uri and Tanghdar shows that after three months most of people will be doing fine and will be out of black hole of trauma," said Dr Hussain.

"The sieve of coping and resilience is working but there will be people who will pass through this sieve. We have to be ready for them with stretched hands not letting them fall. Our weapons are faith and belief, social networking and social bonding," he added.

The bonding on social networking is obvious with netizens changing their display picture to slogans like: "Kashmir will rise again from dust".


Floods left 6.5 lakh residents stranded for days together

87 people have died in the Valley, 29 remain missing

353864 structures have been damaged.

First Published: Oct 11, 2014 19:18 IST