The weeping valley needs tender love
Catastrophes are often a test of civility, and the lack thereof. The present crisis in Jammu and Kashmir, deemed a national calamity by the government of India, is a battleground of not only state’s rescue operations against the surging tide of devastation, but also of the human and political values of otherwise warring establishments. With River Jhelum breaking banks at various points, submerging more than 35 per cent land in Srinagar and all 10 districts in Jammu, with more than 15,000 people displaced and about 150 killed, it has been a nightmarish few days for India’s paradisiacal Kashmir valley. The ravages of utter destruction are for all to see, and fear: flooded cities, collapsed buildings and bridges, broken, drowned roads, power and communication lines cut-off, vehicles washed away, homes razed after landslides, hospitals facing blackouts wherever they are still standing and even relief camps staring at possible dangers. The vagaries of monsoon, which had about a year back sunk Kedarnath shrine and left Uttarakhand in a state of unfathomable ruin, have struck again, dealing a bodyblow to an already beleaguered state torn with longstanding militancy and security issues. Even the Army cantonment in Srinagar is flooded and rendered dysfunctional, even though it is the jawans, along with rescue workers from National Disaster Response Force, and other local NGOs, whose tireless services have brought a glimmer of hope to those stranded in the middle of all the watery nowhere.
National and state highways, including the Jammu-Pathankot link and arterial roads have been blocked. Reports of ruination have emerged from Rajbagh, Jawaharnagar, Shivpora, Indra Nagar, Bemina, Poonch, Rajouri, Reasi, Ganderbal, Bandipur among other places. Srinagar, Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag have been cut off because of landslides blocking connecting routes and the unforeseen situation on the ground. But what is heartening is the camaraderie between erstwhile critics in state chief minister Omar Abdullah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The PM’s Sunday visit to the flood-ravaged state, aerial survey and announcement of an additional Rs 1,000 crore package for rescue and rehabilitation have been timely and unconditional. Moreover, declaring the crisis as a national disaster, as urged by the opposition and the crisis-struck state, means that there wouldn’t be any lackadaisical attitude to relief services to those affected, having lost families, homes and livelihood. That said, it is important to underscore the impact extreme weather patterns are having on the people and the economy. The spate of floods since last year has inflicted enormous damage on the GDP, destroying crops, while drought-like conditions for a longer duration of the year had earlier limited agricultural output. It is a clear signal that unless environmental concerns are taken into account and climate change is accepted as a harsh reality, mere political and economic grandstanding wouldn’t help.