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Residents of flood-hit Srinagar hit out at govt apathy

A banner on one of the tents in a relief camp in downtown Srinagar's Kani Mazaar that says 'We don't need Indian choppers' speaks of the anger at the grossly inadequate government rescue and relief measures after the floods hit Jammu and Kashmir.

india Updated: Sep 16, 2014 13:22 IST
Hilal Mir
Hilal Mir
Hindustan Times
Jammu and Kashmir,J&K,J-K

A banner on one of the tents in a relief camp in downtown Srinagar's Kani Mazaar that says "We don't need Indian choppers" speaks of the anger at the grossly inadequate government rescue and relief measures after the floods hit Jammu and Kashmir.

People from all walks of life have taken up the task to put their lives back together. Doctors are helping in relief camps by putting in the hours and supplying with medicines. Young men are chipping in as volunteers supplying relief material and helping sort out the traffic.

A doctor at a health camp in a mosque in Shah Mohalla area of old Srinagar, 100 metres away from the valley's most-visited SMHS Hospital, which is still five feet under water, asked "Where is the administration?"

All the patients of the SMHS hospital have been shifted to SKIMS Hospital in the suburbs of Srinagar, 12 km away. The SMHS caters to the patients from the old city and rural areas.

Makeshift hospitals

Realising that most parts of the old city were cut off from other hospitals, a group of doctors, who work at the hospital, put up at a hostel nearby decided to operate from a mosque.

The main prayer hall has been converted into a pharmacy. Five round tables in the compound function as ENT, ophthalmology, medicine, dentistry and gastroenterology departments, each attended to by specialist doctors.

Another small room has been marked as the orthopaedics unit.

Since Wednesday about 2,000 patients have been examined and provided free medicines. The medicines dispensed to patients have been pooled by the doctors from their samples given to them by representatives of pharmaceutical companies.

Charities and other organisations working for flood victims also provide a steady supply of medicines.

Asked what the government did for this medical outreach, the doctor, requesting anonymity, said, "Nothing. Local residents help in distributing medicines and queuing up patients. Some volunteers help with keeping records."

Mohammad Rajab, a local resident, told HT that Dr Showkat Kadla, one of the leading gastroenterologists of the valley, donated a few lakh rupees out of his own pocket for the health camp.

Charity organisations step in

Another such health camp operates out of a house vacated by its generous owner in Hyderpora area. Twenty-one doctors voluntarily work in six shifts in this camp set up by the Coordination Committee Hyderpora, which also runs one of the largest relief camps in the local mosque.

Like Hyderpora, all major relief camps - Sanat Nagar, Baghat Gurdwara, Makhdoom Sahab, Rajouri Kadal, HMT and others - where thousands of people have taken shelter, are being run by local committees and volunteers from other places.

Nazir Ahmad, one of the coordinators of Hyderpora committee, said that currently 3,200 people are living at the mosque camp, nearly half the number of flood victims a couple of days ago.

Asked about the governmental help, Nazir said that five trucks of rice were provided by the state food and supplies department for the first time on Sunday.

Vegetables, oils and spices have been coming from charities and purchases, while professional chefs have been hired by the committee to prepare meals.

On Monday, this reporter spotted a few policemen for the first time since the floods ravaged the city.

They were manning a traffic bottleneck near Magarmal Bagh in uptown Srinagar, but a larger number of civilian volunteers were directing the traffic through the congested road that leads to Batamaloo that houses the biggest bus stand.

The absence of the police has made the traffic chaotic on several other roads that remain the only link between flooded and non-flooded areas, hindering the movement of relief material and volunteers.

Death and stink

Shopkeepers in areas where the flood waters receded opened their shops to salvage whatever little they could.

Mujtaba Sheikh, a resident of Chattabal area, which has the largest concentration of the leather garment makers in the city, said, "The water has ruined everything. Nothing we recovered from the shop is worth the market."

Besides huge losses, the residents of these areas complained of the stink emanating from the flotsam and the slimy silt, awaiting fumigation and other disinfecting processes by the government.

Some of them were spraying phenyl and bleaching powder provided by relief camps or bought from the market.

But the stink, which is threatening in more than one way, comes from the decomposing carcasses of more than 315 cows that died in the flood.

Barring a few that were swept away and are rotting in nearby localities, all the heavily bloated dead cattle are laying in the sprawling farm.

"Unless disposed of quickly, these carcasses pose a grave threat to the people of Chattabal which is submerged under water. We are trying to hire a JCB to remove the carcasses," said Naqshab, a volunteer with Athrot, a charity that did a commendable work during 2005 Kashmir earthquake.

In scores of low-lying localities - Batamaloo, Qamarwari, Bemina Housing Colony, Karan Nagar, Tengpora and Rajbagh - where people apprehend flood waters will remain stagnant for long unless pumped out, relief efforts suffered because of inaccessibility.

"The ground floor of our house is three feet under water. My parents didn't leave because they think it is a hassle to go to someone's place when the entire population has suffered. So every day after doing my bit at a health camp, I wade in four-foot deep water to reach my home along with supplies," said Dr Humaam, a resident of Sir Syed Abad in Bemina.

He said volunteers of a local charity have come twice since last Tuesday and offered milk, bread and other eatables.

First Published: Sep 16, 2014 11:16 IST