Problems Galore for Relief Workers in Kashmir

kashmirfloodThe relief workers attempting to work in Kashmir are for the first time facing problems that none had ever thought of before. Kashmir has been struck by a calamity of this nature for the first time since India’s Independence and particularly so after Kashmir was disputed by Pakistan. Due to the unexpected nature of hurdles in the way, most of the relief being sent to the state of Jammu & Kashmir is being spent in Jammu region alone.

Certain relief organizations attempting to provide relief in the region of Kashmir in India have told RNI that fundraising and fund transfers for humanitarian cause is not easy as before. Certain countries have banned it and guidelines and regulations have been issued in this regard.

Since it was natural for the Government of India and perhaps also the State Government to have security concerns in allowing foreign aid agencies to work freely in Kashmir, no guideline has been issued publicly so far as to who and what is allowed and disallowed. Also, there is no clarity on how custom authorities on Indian International Airports are to handle relief materials coming in. Conflicting reports are coming in regarding the manner in which the goods are being handled; told a relief organization to RNI.

The organization also claims that long-standing strife in the region has created a situation where spiritual values and sense of community welfare in general has gone missing for some time now in Kashmir. “It is reflecting even on our relief and rehabilitation efforts,” they say. The problem is compounded by the lack of Kashmir based NGOs with authority to receive foreign funds and relief. There is a lack of Kashmiri NGOs in foreign countries as well. People working at ground-zero also talk of lack of Kashmiri community participation (at a major community level) to help other people in the world who gave earlier witnessed similar disasters.

The fact that Kashmir was unprepared and the Kashmiris had never seen any calamity of this nature in last 100 years or more too contributed to the unpreparedness and a proactive response on ground. Consequently, when tragedy occurred there were no trained volunteers who could come forward, neither in fundraising, nor in relief logistics and relief distribution. Professionally collected and presented primary data on ground (surveys) too is not available.

To compound the problems further, whatever was left of the State Government, is now in the process of shifting to the winter capital Jammu. Severe winter is close and if nothing is done immediately, people in some parts of Kashmir would pay dearly for it. Already there are reports of plenty of relief from one part of the valley and total scarcity in other.

Long-standing militancy has stopped many a professional and good-hearted souls from giving full time and effort. This aside, there is great lack of coordination among relief organizations and NGOs which has resulted in lopsided approach. Social Workers state that everything appears to be going in waves – wave of medicine, wave of tents, wave of blankets, that too reactively. Agencies are not concentrating on areas of importance but at times even dumping the relief material wherever they could reach.

RNI/LifeWatch