As Hell Broke Loose over the Heaven on Earth….

The last ten days have been nothing less than a nightmare in the northern parts of the country, as incessant torrential rains, the heaviest experienced by Kashmir in 50 years, created havoc, resulting in the worst floods in over six decades, affecting close to 2,600 villages in Jammu and Kashmir. Much to everyone’s agony, the retreating monsoons caused the water levels in the rivers Jhelum in Kashmir and Tawi in the Jammu region to go far beyond the danger mark, and the resultant floods washed away roads, destroyed railway tracks, swallowed houses, cut off communication links and most importantly, trapped lakhs of people for days. Rescue and relief operations, which are being jointly handled by the Army and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) along with police forces from different parts of Jammu and Kashmir, have been relentless, but still the number of people awaiting help remains significantly high. The inability of the weather departments and the Central Water Commission, which is responsible for issuing flood advisories, in adequately warning about the possible magnitude of the catastrophe has attracted significant criticism. Even the state government led by Omar Abdullah has been found wanting, supposedly taken aback by the crisis that transpired from the sudden floods. Questions over the effectiveness of the state government in rising up to the occasion still continue to loom large, especially in the minds of the residents.

The situation in Pakistan has been pretty much the same, the magnitude of losses being of comparable proportions in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and other parts of the country. The unprecedented rains affected the hilly areas deeply. The district of Haveli, for example, experienced rainfall of 400 millimetres in a day, much to the anguish of the residents and the disaster management authorities. To the people of Pakistan, many of whom are yet to recover fully from the shockwaves generated by the devastating floods of 2010, which affected close to 20 million people and inflicted infrastructural damage of humongous proportions; this recent calamity has been a source of utter frustration. Many are raising questions on whether the present catastrophe could be more prudently gauged, warnings more effectively issued and rescue and relief activities more promptly exercised.

Amidst the ruckus, there has been one development which hasn’t failed to capture one’s imagination. It was the generous offer extended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to give a helping hand to Pakistan in carrying out its rescue and relief activities, to which the Pakistan Government later responded as well. In a letter to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, Narendra Modi offered to provide any assistance that may be required in this hour of need, and emphasized on the fact that India’s resources will be at their disposal whenever the need arises. Acknowledging the same, Nawaz Sharif expressed that such an act of solidarity in the face of crisis is indeed of great value. Further, he reciprocated with an offer to provide any help that may be necessary in the relief efforts that are being carried out in India.

In a way, this exchange of dialogue in these times of crisis might have lifted the spirits of many an optimistic individual in both the countries, as it indeed was an encouraging display of symbiosis, with both the countries appreciating each other’s woes and promising mutual support. But, the critical mind might even bring about another aspect, and tend to ponder whether such acts of solidarity and mutual respect would always require a situation of emergency, as is the case this time around. Whether such positivity would transcend to all kinds of bilateral communication in the times to come is something the people of both India and Pakistan would be anxious to know.

 

Samit Chakraborty

samit@briefindia.com