J&K floods demand quick and effective action, shrill politicking can have devastating impact

Politicking over tragedy
The unprecedented rains and floods playing havoc with life and property in almost every nook and corner of Jammu and Kashmir is too serious a concern for any politicking to crop up on this issue or any other such calamity. The death toll has crossed the 150 mark and as weather begins to clear up, an assessment of casualties and destruction will reveal a more horrendous picture. Added to the images of devastation are the threats of health hazards and major epidemics for which the government needs to begin gearing itself. It goes without saying that the state government’s disaster management is both too centralised and inadequate to address even a small to medium calamity with a degree of efficiency which may ultimately need some genuine introspection and drastic measures. However, this might not be the occasion to beat the government with a stick, engage in nit-picking and indulge in some petty blame game.

The magnitude of the floods and the scale of damage is far too high for even the best of disaster management programmes to succeed at this juncture. What, however, would help is prompt administration, co-operation with political and social groups and a larger and wider networking with common masses caught in the fury of the rains and floods. Given the tough terrain and topography of vast regions of the state, it requires greater degree of patience, calm, co-operation from all quarters and pooling in of all resources in terms of finances or manpower. It would be detrimental to everyone’s interests if local political groups including the ruling parties find this an opportune moment to engage in their petty mud-slinging combats or scoring brownie points in run up to the assembly elections. While co-operation from all sectors is important, the onus is indeed on the government to ensure that it heeds the voices of complaints from all including opposition political groups and address their issues instead of switching into a vindictive mode. 

It is unfortunate that BJP, which is the ruling party at the centre, and could have played a more responsible role in offering maximum centralassistance, has started on a wrong note. The central government headed by the BJP first turned a cold shoulder and instead focused on issues, that may be significant but long pending and are not pressing emergency issues demanding immediate attention. Instead of playing dirty politics, the centre should act with the magnanimity that the issue deserves and give all possible aid both in rescue and relief work at this trying juncture that the state is facing. Though a belated chopper visit was made on Saturday by union home minister Rajnath Singh after some criticism, it has come only after a rash and ugly display on Friday of misplaced priorities and also not enough to show the sincerity of the government and its concern for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Even during his visit, Rajnath Singh, instead of restricting himself to the flood situation, again raked up politically controversial issues. The follow up action was not aid and assistance of the magnitude that the tragedy requires but more chopper visits, this time by prime minister Narendra Modi himself. Such chopper rides in times of disaster have become a futile political tradition that only end up being a major drain on the public exchequer. The focus instead should be on making the administrative set up effective and efficient and ensuring better co-ordination between the state government and the Centre. At the same time, the central government should pay attention to the demands of declaring the J&K floods as a national calamity and offer liberal assistance. It would also require the state government to improvise its own apparatus to check the misuse of such assistance by plugging the channels of corruption and misappropriation of money. The affected population is in extreme distress and that should be the only priority.