Kashmir Flood: clemency awaited

By K.M. Shareef for TwoCircles.net,

Srinagar: “It is for the first time, we Kashmiris are begging and stretching out our arms for meeting our daily needs. Our homes and shops everything was washed away in the mammoth flood,” wept, Beevi Qathun, a 60-something flood affected from Bemina village.

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Last time a flood of severe intensity affected the Kashmir valley was in 1902 and the death toll then was 92 with hundreds dying subsequently. This time, already 162 people have died and a loss of Rs 1.5 lakh crore is incurred due to the unprecedented floods that wreaked havoc in Kashmir valley in early September.

Kashmir Flood: clemency awaited

We visited the flood affected areas as part of the relief works by our Popular Front of India, 17 days after the disaster struck. Popular Front activists had already conducted a survey in 10 flood-affected villages of Badgam, Srinagar and Anant Nag districts. They had visited 3,845 families, of which, it was found that a whopping 3,693 families were affected by the disaster.

The popular landmark Lal Chowk has been completely destroyed and looked as if the river Jhelum still flowed there. Water had risen to around 18 feet and the famous Dal Lake, a premier tourists’ attraction, offered a pitiable sight. People who depend on the house­boats for livelihood are rendered unemployed after the floods and it seems, it will take long period to recover.

We also went to the Muslim colonies Pampur, Laljan, Bulwad and Rajbhagh, an area inhabited by wealthy people and bureaucrats. It is military cantonment area as well. Next day we visited Laljan and Atthoujan.

Pampur, the most affluent area in Srinagar, is a saffron cultivating area. It was totally destroyed and incurred largest of the losses due to floods. In Palwama district, we met Senior Superintendent Abdul Wahid Shah, who has been helping out people. As many as 55 villages were destroyed there, he said.

Army, NGOs and local people are helping the people and their immediate requirement is a safe dwelling places. Shah requested us – the Popular Front – to adopt villages and construct houses for them.

In Gulgam district, where cricket bat manufacturing factories are situated, we saw there was more than 10 feet high mud stacked everywhere. Automobile centers and car showrooms were fully wiped out. In Gund area, where military officers are on round the clock security duty, they have erected tents for the Kashmiris.

As many as 168 houses were destroyed, raising question as to how they would cope the chilly winter. The villagers unanimously declared that we should help in constructing houses for 50 of the poorest families out of those 168.

Popular Front has also extended Medical Camp Services to Bomina, Mehzpur and Kanimaha. Essential materials for 3600 families have already been distributed.

(K.M. Shareef is the chairman of Popular Front of India. This article was translated into English by Asif Batteri)