NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir Government not to restrict its focus to Srinagar in the rescue and relief operations in flood-hit areas, saying the condition in some other districts is “worse”.
It said the authorities must ensure that necessary supplies reach the last of the flood-hit victims with emphasis on their rehabilitation.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice R.M Lodha reiterated that it was not treating the matter as adversarial litigation but said the type of focus Centre has given to Srinagar did not appear to have reached other flood-affected districts like Kulgam, Anantnag, Shopian, Pulwama, Ganderbal, Baramulla and Budgam.
“The entire focus is on Srinagar. No focus is there on other districts. They are as bad as Srinagar and condition in some other districts is worse. I don’t think effort (in other districts) is like what has been done in Srinagar,” the CJI said after perusing the note placed by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi on the rescue and relief operations carried out at the behest of the Centre.
The Bench, also comprising justices Kurian Joseph and R.F Nariman, said though the Centre has done a “wonderful job” and “so many things” were undertaken without any direction from the Court, it has not focused on the rehabilitation of the victims.
“The focus should be on the phase-wise rehabilitation,” the Bench observed and added that “the first and foremost challenge is the survival of affected people”.
The Bench also took on record the grievances of the petitioners — Bhim Singh, Chief of Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party, Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves and Advocate Vasundhara Pathak Masoodi — who disputed the Centre’s claim.
They said there was a lot of gap between what the Centre was claiming and what the reports from the ground level were suggesting.
Taking note of their submissions, the bench asked the State Government to “respond to the grievances highlighted” and posted the matter for hearing on 18th September.
“We expect the State Government to take necessary steps for making available food, drinking water, medicines and fuel to the affected persons on top priority,” the Bench said.
It asked the Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court to consider the suggestion for making functional the High Court for addressing people’s grievances from its guest house or from Judges’ residence.
The CJI said he will speak to the J and K High Court Chief Justice on the issue.
The Apex Court also asked the State Government to consider grant of ex-gratia to all affected persons and also make available banking facility with cooperation of various banks operating in the State.
Further, the bench asked the State Government to look into the issue of ensuring separate relief and health camps after it was told that reports emerged that several pregnant women are stuck in the deluge.
In its order, the Bench asked the State Government to clear the flood-affected areas from the carcasses of cattle and animals.
The Bench concluded the hearing by saying, “we reiterate that this is not an adversarial litigation but what is expected of the Centre and State Government is that all necessary steps should be taken to protect the surviving people and supplies should reach to the last of the victims”.
The Attorney General ruled out the suggestion of outsourcing the work on rescue and relief operations carried out by the army, NDRF and State Police, saying that Jammu and Kashmir is a “very sensitive” state and even the frontier areas have bore the brunt of nature’s fury.
When the Bench asked him about the setting up of control room, he said things are being monitored at the highest level by Cabinet Secretary, Home Secretary, Army Chief and over all the Prime Minister himself was keeping eye on the entire developments.
The Apex Court noted that the Centre has already taken care of the petitioners’ grievances of making avilable 350 boats and the State Government has also said that it was enough and they don’t require more.
Many other State Governments, viz. Gujarat, Punjab, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand etc, have come forward for providing relief material and other essential items and the same is also being airlifted by the Central Government, the Attorney General said.
Rohatgi, in his note, said that “Srinagar is the worst affected” and in the initial days till about 10th September the employees of the State administration including the local police were not very visible since they themselves were marooned and unable to come to duty.
“This is also for the reason that the places of duty themselves were submerged under water i.e. the Secretariat, the High Court and many other such administrative blocks of the State Govt. However, from about 10th September onwards the State Govt. administration employees including the police are steadily joining their duties and taking charge of rescue, relief and rehabilitation operations,” the AG’s note said.
He said more than 2.1 lakh people have since been rescued and mostly all tourists who were stranded have been evacuated from Srinagar and this process probably will be completed by tomorrow.
On deployment of personnel, the AG’s note said more than 30,000 troops plus 15 columns of engineering force (around 1,200) are deployed in the State.
The Navy has sent two Marcos teams (Special Commandos) and one deep diving team and the NDRF has sent about 22 teams totaling about 955 persons with 30 deep divers, he said.
About 125 planes and helicopters are pressed into service in the rescue and relief operations and huge transport aircrafts are carrying food in the form of dry rations, water, milk, biscuits and other essential items from different parts of the country to Srinagar wherein the airport has been functional from day one, since it is in the higher ground.
The note said relief materials in the form of rations and other items are also being sent to other areas beyond Srinagar as per the directions of the State Government and wherever road transport is not possible choppers are being asked to deliver it.
The Centre through the Attorney General apprised the extent of restoration of mobile connectivity, telephone lines, power facility, fuel and supply of food, drinking water, medicines besides blanket. (PTI)