By Debaprio D. Choudhury
Baramulla (Jammu and Kashmir): Nearly a year later, Jammu and Kashmir is yet to recover from the devastating floods that claimed nearly 300 lives and caused widespread destruction. But many Kashmiris say the deluge has united them like never before.
In Baramulla district, around 40 km from Srinagar, an IANS correspondent met many people who are still living in makeshift houses – and without any proper livelihood.
Ali Mohammed Butt, a carpet weaver by profession from Duslipora village, saw the floods destroy his waving unit. He needs Rs.50,000 to Rs.60,000 to restore it.
Butt’s home was destroyed too. During the day, the Butt family lives in a half wooden structure built with government aid. At night, they shift into a community hall as their “home” is not safe for women.
Recently, he was ordered to evict the community hall.
“I was depressed after getting the notice as I was worried about the safety of my daughter and wife. But the villagers came into my rescue. The notice was withdrawn,” Butt told IANS.
Gulam Nabi, another villager, said after the floods he had to work as a labourer in Srinagar as his carpet loom too was destroyed.
Two months ago, Nabi resumed his carpet waving after members of a village-level committee formed by NGO ActionAid India came to his rescue.
“The flood has further distressed people in Kashmir who were already suffering from psychosocial issues,” Nasreen, a councillor with The J and K Yateem Trust, told IANS. “It was a challenge to boost their morale again.”
The Trust is a local partner of ActionAid, a global NGO working in India since 1972.
Few Kashmiris can forget the horror of September 6, 2014 night when the floods swept through the valley and Jammu region, claiming nearly 300 lives and felling hundreds of houses. With water rising upto over 15 feet in places, thousands became homeless and lost virtually everything.
Tabia Muzaffar of ActionAid India said: “Livelihood was badly hit by the floods. We are providing counselling and help the victims to restart their business or go for other means of livelihood.”
She said her NGO’s focus was on districts like Baramulla, Anantnag, Pulwama and Kulgam.
Muzaffar said ActionAid India was focusing on providing psychosocial counselling and helping in the restoration of livelihoods and linkages of families with government entitlements.
Maqbul Rather, the sarpanch of Harinara village, told IANS that villagers did not get much help from the authorities during and after the floods and it were people who helped each other.
“In my village, 80 percent of families are into carpet waving. After the floods they are working as daily labourers. Road and bridges are yet to be repaired. Some people got government assistance to construct their homes but the amount is not enough,” Rather told IANS.
Gulam Ahmed Dar, the sarpanch of Yakhmanpora village, eschoed him. “We need more help. Nothing was done to normalise our lives.”
Mustaq Ahmed from Archander Hama village said the government needed to come to people’s rescue.
“We have no livestock, kitchen equipment or even proper bed to sleep. Even government aid was not distributed well. We face a tough condition. Half the houses in my village are unsafe.”
Liyaqat Ali Dar, a Duslipora villager and an M.A. in rural development, complained that unemployment was rising after the floods. “I ran a small shop but it got destroyed. I left for Srinagar to work as a labourer. I hope to reopen my shop one day.”
The Jammu and Kashmir government sent a loss-memo of Rs.44,000 crore ($6.5 billion) to the central government for immediate assistance in October 2014. Activists say the memo is gathering dust in New Delhi.
Tourism, a major source of income, did not rise to expected levels this year because the threat of another deluge loomed large on everybody’s mind as rivers and other water bodies swelled each time it rained.
So Kashmiris can only pray and pray — for better times.