Lack of statewide disaster management plan, redtape led to catastrophe in J&K
The lack of a statewide disaster management plan, and failure to create an agency which can handle disasters in Jammu and Kashmir have lead to a situation where neither the administration nor people are equipped to face the situation. This has led to heavy loss of life, destruction, and damage to property while exposing inadequacy of the government which has remained busy in making plans on paper but actually nothing works on the ground. The huge amount of expenditure which the tax payer incurs to maintain this large super-structure of bureaucracy, and officialdom has ultimately proved that is incapable to have a long term vision, and no ability to meet any eventuality. It is a foregone conclusion that despite this major tragedy, the government will keep waiting forever to equip the State Disaster Response Force which has been in the making for the last several years.
Notably, the Chief Secretary is said to have approved in February, 2014 the release of 18 crore for purchasing equipment meant for disaster recovery. However, government rules, and bureaucratic red tape ensured that only a part of that fund could be utilized for purchase of equipment, and rest remained locked. While the money has been re-validated for the next fiscal but sources allege that there are so many hurdles to cross that no functional ability could be created for managing natural disasters. And the result of this slow decision making can be seen by all as rampaging flood waters take everyone by surprise, and precious lives are lost.
While some credit can be given to the top officials for pushing for the creation of an institutional mechanism to handle disasters, and purchase of necessary equipment but surprisingly the State Disaster Response Force which has one battalion each in Kashmir, and Jammu failed in obtaining the necessary equipment. An official however said that SDRF is trying best to help the people but the work is being hampered by lack of equipment as rescue operations need specialized equipment. The lack of a statewide Disaster Management Plan is another handicap which has ensured that there is no vision or guidance for the administration to implement when the disaster strikes. What are the varied responses to be adopted by the people, what the police, and local civil defence officials should do, and how to ensure minimal loss of life, and property is something which no one knows in the state.
It is because of this lack of preparedness that the floods in the state has led to almost a catastrophe in which more than 100 people have died, and hundred of houses have been completely, and partially damaged in districts of Jammu province. The situation is same in Kashmir as well where flash floods, and rising water level has brought life to standstill. A large posse of army, police, and the disaster response team managed to evacuate 6000 people from flood ravaged ares, while army is on standby in case situation breaks down further. For the third day, National HIgh-way connecting Srinagar and Jammu has remained closed due to landslides and various agencies have been trying to make it functional. The water level in Chenab and Tawii river has been about ten to 12 feet above danger mark, and the government has asked people to refrain from standing over the bridges on rivers in the state. Various state highways, and roads connecting the districts have also remained closed due to landslides, and flash floods caused by heavy rains in upper reaches.