To protest against the People’s Democratic Party-led coalition government with the Bhartiya Janata Party, the traders of Kashmir have called for a shutdown on Monday. On Friday, the state high court slammed the central government for failing to deliver the Rs 440 billion relief package that the then National Conference-Congress government had requested. “Even after passage of a year, GoI [Government of India] is still undecided about the package. What is your stand?” asked the court, as it granted one more week to the central government to submit a compliance report.
According to the government 261,361 structures, 327,000 hectares of agricultural land and 396,000 hectares of horticulture land had suffered damage. “Under public sector, 6,910 kms of road length, 559 bridges, 3,063 PHE [Public Health Engineering] schemes, 6,423 irrigation works and schemes, 4,202 sub-stations, 11,671 kms of electric conductors, besides 6,466 other buildings suffered damages,” said Basharat Bukhari, the state’s Minister for Relief and Rehabilitation.
The housing sector had suffered losses over Rs 300 billion rupees while the losses for the business sector were estimated to be Rs 700 billion. But so far the central government has only announced a Rs 16 billion package in June 2015. In some of the cases, the government has given only Rs 3,800 to partially damaged, Rs 12,500 to severely damaged and Rs 75,000 to fully damaged houses.
No assessment of losses
The Kashmir Economic Alliance, a coming together of traders’ bodies, was the first to call for a shutdown in protest. Since the floods, it is the fourth shutdown by the traders who also claim that there has been no proper government assessment of the losses. All other major trade and political groups have supported the shutdown, including separatist groups such as the Hurriyat Conference and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, non-governmental organisations and even the private schools association.
The KEA Chairman and President of Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation, Mohammad Yaseen Khan, said that the prime minister and the state government had asked for more time but nothing has been done so far. “They want to make us fools as if nothing happened,” Khan added. “Is Narendra Modi doing this because we are a Muslim majority state? We know India has a Hindutva government now perhaps that is why we are being neglected.”
Lal Chowk, the business hub of the capital city Srinagar, was deluged for over a week in the floods, damaging hundreds of business establishments. Abdul Majeed Shah, 62, looked after his family of nine people with income from his shop that he established in Lal Chowk in 1997. During the floods, the water fully submerged his shop resulting in a loss of Rs 3.8 million.
“The floods hit us ahead of the major festival Eid,” said Shah, whose shop, Tradition readymade garments, will also be closed on Monday. “I lost all my stocks and the shop interiors. It was only the insurance return that I received covering 25%," he said. All that money was used in partially repairing the shop, feeding the family and to pay our old suppliers. The government didn’t help even though we have submitted compensation applications thrice so far.”
Shah’s 42-year-old son, Irfan Majeed, says the monthly expense to run the shop is Rs 30,000, and the suppliers are now asking for cash payments for material. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he would do something himself as state failed,” Irfan said. “But there has been no help and we have lost hope now. I think the government is neglecting us so that the state economy would crumble and eventually local people would suffer.”
Supporting the shutdown
Supporting the shutdown, the opposition National Conference has also come out against the government. “One year has come to pass and the PDP-BJP government has refused to show the bare minimum political will to rehabilitate and compensate the flood victims,” said the party’s Provincial President Nasir Aslam Wani. “[That the] Mufi government deliberately sabotaged the flood relief package is an established fact. It was PDP that foisted elections on a devastated people just a month or so after the worst natural disaster in our contemporary history. By doing so they brought the relief and rehabilitation efforts to a grinding halt.”
Yaseen Khan also charged the government with refusing aid offers from international community because Kashmir is a disputed territory. “They are celebrating the devastation of Kashmir. They are claiming shortage of money but are buying lavish cars for themselves,” Khan said, alluding to government orders this week to spend Rs 112 million to buy luxurious customised Sports Utility Vehicles for the lawmakers.
The Public Health Engineering, Irrigation and Flood Control department's decision to spend Rs 1.3 million on a half marathon on September 13 “to promote sports and healthy lifestyle” is yet another move that has added to the anger against the authorities.
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