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Consider giving ex-gratia for flood-hit people: SC to Kashmir government

New Delhi : The Supreme Court Monday asked the Jammu and Kashmir government to consider giving ex-gratia payment for people affected by the floods and to immediately take up the issue of restoring banking facilities in the affected areas.

The bench of Chief Justice R.M. Lodha, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman said that coupled with the rescue and relief operation, focus should be on the rehabilitation of people.

The court pointed to photographs showing people stranded on rooftops for days and expressed relief that it was not raining in Kashmir any more.

“Thank god, it is not raining. Thank god, it is not chilly. Otherwise to survive on a hilltop is unimaginable,” said Chief Justice Lodha.

The court, however, observed that details of the rescue operations given by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi only concerned Srinagar and wondered about the situation in Kulgam, Anantnag, Shopian, Pulwama, Ganderbal, Baramulla and Budgam, which it said were equally badly affected.

“We expect the state government in collaboration with the central government to take all necessary steps on a war-footing for making available food, drinking water, medicines and fuel to the affected people on top-most priority and ensure that these supplies reach the last man,” the court said.

The court sought response from the Kashmir government over the various grievances highlighted by petitioner advocate Vasundhara Pathak Masoodi and the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP) contending that over a lakh people were still marooned in the floods and suffering due to lack of adequate availability of food, medicines, drinking water and fuel.

The court also sought the government’s response on the petitioner’s contention that adequate number of relief and health camps have not been set up.

It also asked the Jammu and Kashmir High Court chief justice to consider Rohatgi’s suggestion that the court could start functioning from its guesthouse in Chashme Shahi.

The attorney general told the court that the guesthouse was not flooded.

Masoodi also suggested that high court judges could hold courts in their respective residences.

At the outset of the hearing, Rohatgi informed the court about the various steps taken by the central government, including restoration of telephone and mobile phone connectivity, power, diesel/petrol, food, boats, medicines, drinking water, blankets and roads.

Rohatgi said there were adequate number of boats to rescue people and the state government has said no more boats were required.

However, the petitioner disputed the claim made by the central government, saying there were gaps between what was being told to the court and the situation on the ground.

The court directed the listing of the matter for Sep 18.