The most repeated statement these days from the State Government is about the fast returning “Normalcy” to the flood devastated Kashmir and especially Srinagar. One of the barometers of the “Normalcy” is the forced opening of Schools. According to Government itself thousands of Schools have been damaged by the unprecedented floods. Even some of the poshest schools in Srinagar were under water for days on end. A local daily correspondent has done an investigative report which states that the flood hit schools are a time bomb of infections. According to him not only are the school buildings structurally unsafe but pose a serious risk to the health of the school children who are vulnerable to deadly infections, which can target even lungs and brain. However, the state authorities are forcing these schools to open to pretend return of “Normalcy”! The politicians who had been washed away with the floods have started slowly re-appearing through photo-statements in local dailies claiming restoration of various civic services.
“Normalcy” is the most battered word in Kashmir. However, in the past its restoration has been exclusively used in regard to political turmoil and violence. Now it has been applied to the natural calamity. How can one call people who have faced the worst trauma in their lives caused by the most devastating flood in last 121 years be normal so soon? They are all dazed and still under a shock moving like zombies. Some of the villages have been washed away even without a trace. In the capital city of Srinagar, some of the poshest colonies like Raj Bagh and Jawahar Nagar look like some war torn localities. Dozens of collapsed houses on different roads appear to have been bombarded and appear like scenes from a war movie! There is strong stench of muck and filth all round. No doubt Srinagar Municipality has been working round the clock with newest machines and dozers yet the extent of devastation is so much that it will take months to really clean up all the areas and restore these to somewhat normal conditions.
Some of the healthcare facilities such as the main state hospitals, private hospitals and clinics which had faced the brunt ofthe floods have yet to resume their usual working. Even the diagnostic facilities in different parts of the city have yet to resume normal working. In most of the main shopping areas very few shops are open. Most of the shopkeepers are still cleaning their shops and stores and throwing away the goods spoiled by the flood waters which remained in these areas for about 20 days or so due to absence of sufficient dewatering facilities. The number of vehicles which had been affected by the floods runs into thousands. Most of the workshops are overflowing with these damaged vehicles. Some people have even sent their vehicles in trucks to Jammu and other places for repairs.
Apart from the tardy pace of restoration, there have been allegations of relief being distributed among people who did not face the floods. Even some people have been accused of politicising the relief distribution. One would not be surprised if our politicians and some corrupt bureaucrats make hay while the sun of flood relief shines! It would have been better if instead of channelling the reliefthrough the state government or some non-governmental organisations it was distributed directly among the sufferers by the agencies sending it. The worst part is the tardy progress on the provision of dependable shelters capable of withstanding the fast approaching winter for the displaced persons. They would need insulated warm shelters to face the freezing winters during which even the day temperatures fall below zero. One fails to understand why is the central government dithering in taking charge of the restoration and rehabilitation on an accelerated pace through some of the international agencies readily offering generous aid and expertise? Common people are getting the impression that some of the elements in the central government are drawing sadistic pleasure from the discomfiture of suffering Kashmiris. Instead of lessening the alienation, this dithering is going to increase it and may result in an upheaval sometime in the future.
In the present circumstances, the forthcoming assembly elections appear not only to be an exercise in futility but these could seriously jeopardise the restoration and rehabilitation process. The most immediate need is to bring some semblance of normalcy to the devastatingly disturbed life of the people than to provide means to the corrupt and greedy politicians to come back and suck whatever blood has been left in the veins of the presently suffering common people! Kashmiris are a resilient people and have faced numerous calamities and external as well as internal oppression in the past. They have survived and will survive and rise again. However, the present process of restoration and rehabilitation to bring in real “Normalcy” can only succeed if the present lot of corrupt politicians posing as pretenders of “Normalcy” is sent packing. Kashmir at present needs a single line administration with the clear goal of restoration and rehabilitation without any political interference if the “Normalcy” has to be real and not pretence!