There is a fixed drill for the Flood Department when the Jehlum rises. Flood gates are manned, bunds are patrolled 24 hours, manpower is mobilized and sandbags readied. It seems that not only was the administration not alert, opening the flood gates for diverting water was delayed. By the time the warnings came it was too late.
An official enquiry will no doubt establish thechain of circumstances led to standard procedures being ignored. Srinagar may have been flooded anyway, but surely the breaches in the bund could have been prevented and the inundation kept to manageable levels. A few feet of water is a nuisance, whole buildings immersed is a disaster. TheState Disaster Management Authority, about which such a brouhaha was made some years ago was as if it had never been. No one has heard of the Disaster Management Plans.The Chief Minister says his government was drowned. He wasn’t drowned-Why did he not have the essential staff pulled out as soon as possible and set them to work within 24 hours?
Consider the scenario-A Chief Minister finds himselfalone but free and able when catastrophe suddenly strikes. What should he do? A normal Chief Minister would begin by rescuing those keyofficials whose job it is to manage the crisis. They know what to do and must start doing it in this gravest emergency ofliving memory. The CM should have asked the Corps Commander to rescue the Chief Secretary, the Divisional Commissioner, the DC and the DG and IG of Police. These officials could then have pulled resources in men and material from Budgam, from Shopian, from Kangan, from Baramulla and elsewhere. Police wireless communications from these districts could have been deployed in Srinagar. J&K Government offices in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Amritsar could have beenmobilized for flying in supplies, boats, tents, medicines, water and food. Relief camps should have been established at higher ground in Rangreth, Hari Parbat, Shankaracharya, Gupkar, Nehru Garden and elsewhere, even the upper levels of the Royal Springs Golf Course. There are basic administrative procedureswhich should automatically have come into operation.
This is what the Chief Minister should have done, if he knew his job. Instead he did what he does know how to do. He tweeted. Disraeli was once asked to define the difference between a disaster and a calamity. His reply is worth repeating in the context of the criminal irresponsibility exhibited in Kashmir. “If Gladstone fell into the Thames” Disraeli said, “it would be a disaster. But if someone pulled him out, that would be a calamity.” Kashmiris know what their real calamity is.
There was much that could have been done, despite the circumstances. Where were the Fire brigade boats and its trucks with their long ladders? What happened to thepolice motorboats? J&K Bank is a virtual arm of the Government. Could its branch managers in Mumbai and Kolkata not have been mobilized to charter planes and fly in materials? The Shikara walas could have been commandeered and the boat dwellers on the Jehlum.Officialdom even after rescue, remained leaderless and shell shocked. If local volunteers could organize, why could not the senior officialswhose fundamental responsibility is crisis management.
The failure of the Government is primarily the failure of its Head. He alone had the opportunity to resurrect his administration, but he failed to take it; subsequently,administrative failure was complete as well.The administration never recovered from the initial shock. A week after the flood Delhi said it was sending up its own team its own team of officials to manage relief and rescue. What a sad commentary.
What more can one say about this most shameful episode. Oliver Cromwell comes to mind. Facing the rump of the English Parliament that refused to vacate he drove out the useless parliamentarians with his sword, saying, “You have sat too long for any good you have doing lately….depart I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go.” Many Kashmiris echo that sentiment today