M. M Khajooria
The first and the foremost requirement is to resurrect and fully activate the Relief and Rehabilitation organisation. In 1971-72 model the R and R Commissioner had the assistance of Dy-Commissioner HQrs assisted by number of officers of lower ranks and a well staffed ministerial presence. A Finance Officer of impeccable integrity and high standard of efficiency headed the Finance Section and ensured meticulous observation of codal formalities , rules and regulations. Officers of the Revenue Department from Dy- Commissioner downwards were integrated into the R and R Department and designated accordingly. The arrangement enabled to secure 100 per cent on the spot assessment of damages/ claims conducted by Patwasis and 50 per cent by Girdawars to be verified through random on the spot double/ triple checked by Niab -Tehsildars, Tehsildars, Assistant Commissioners and even Dy Commissioners in percentage allocate to each. The data that emerged through these filters was reasonably reliable. All other departments of the State Government were required to render full cooperation which most did.
Analysis of the problem should have begun with recognition of the enormity of the complex multi -dimensional and colossal challenges thrown up by the terrible calamity. This done, the establishment has to be innovative, develop and practice extraordinary initiative capability. Stereotypes, which merely constrict thinking and speed of performance should be dumped without any hesitation. In the present case, unfortunately no cogent and focused policy frame was visible. The strategy to come to grips with the grave challenges was in the limbo. Similarly, there is lack of clarity about implementation mechanism and monitoring of progress of field operations. Adhocism runs the roost.
It should have been obvious that the very magnitude and complexity of the problem demanded crafting of systems and structures that fast track R and R operations incinerating red-tape and out dated and outmoded rules and regulations. This is certainly not a problem that can be solved through fire-fighting and loosely supervised wayward field staff. In short, the establishment has to quickly conceptualise a time bound programmes of action to lick daunting challenges, construct dedicated and reliable mechanism for the purpose and identify and employ personnel capable of efficiently achieving the physical targets well in time. Perpetuation of the current arrangement may turn out to be a sure receive for administrative disaster.
The situation in Srinagar city continues to be grim. Number of colonies remain water logged and many houses remain unsuitable for habitation. Dislocated inhabitants are either shelter less or compelled to suffer the indignity of guests overstaying their welcome. The number of people needing shelter through winter is still unclear and plans to provide them accommodation in the realm of conjectures. The frightening spectre of epidemics especially viral infections and water borne diseases loom large. The State and Central Governments must immediately set up a joint multi disciplined Task Force to be located in Srinagar charged with the responsibility of devising and supervising implementation of appropriate effective preventive, corrective measures. For preventive measures and treatment of afflicted persons fully equipped hospitals manned by specialists capable of effectively dealing with epidemic like situation should be put in place drawing personnel from all over the country without any further loss of time. Sporadic visits by teams of doctors was not an acceptable substitute. These measures can naturally brook no constraint of human and financial resources.
By now we should have a fair idea of the intensity and extent of devastation, the loss of lives and limbs, damage to and destruction of property and developmental infrastructure. The very fact that these were both massive and unprecedented dictates double check and a credible assurance that the exercise was conducted responsibly, seriously and compassionately. The moot question is whether the government would continue to be driven by feudal mindset and peg the aim of rehabilitation at sending victims back to hovels, recreate the same symbols of poverty and backwardness, replicate patched and leaning mud houses, pock mark cracked brick walls and leave the inmates in a condition worst than before in the very same rural flood prone locations? Or. would it traverse the social welfare oriented forward looking route and rehabilitate the victims of flood in rural and far flung areas or mud slides prone areas at safe locations in simple but sturdy and comfortable houses equipped with better and upgraded sanitary, education, health care and other basic common facilities . For this to happen the criteria of assessing so called damages which stinks of callousness and charity syndrome shall have to be discarded and re-written so as to gel with the philosophy of rehabilitation of victims in a democracy wedded to a social welfare state. The initiative in this behalf has to come from Government of India which needs and deserves the intervention of the Prime Minister. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah must take up the issue at top most priority both at the official and personal levels.
The hilly areas of Jammu region especially in Poonch and Kistwar Districts are faced with problems of steadily creeping ‘moving slips’, loosening soil cover on hill tops and shifting rock beds. Then there are villages like Challa -Dangri in Mandi area of Poonch District whose top soil has been eroding for decades endangering human lives, swallowing habitation and livestock. I had recommended expert study of the phenomena during my tenure as Commissioner of Poonch-Rajouri Division in 1979-80. Apparently, It was not followed up by my successors. The horrible spectacle of entire villages being swallowed up by mud slides highlights the urgency of a dedicated geological survey of such areas and relocation of villages/ habitations to secure places as model habitations at State expense. The matter deserves the urgent attention of Government of India .As it happens, the concerned constituencies are represented by the ruling party. Dr, Jatinder Singh the MP from Kathua- Doda Constituency holds an important position in the Central Council of Ministers and is also MoS in the PMO. It is both his duty and responsibility to pursue the matter further and have the process of geological/ soil survey and studies initiated without any loss of time.