|Kashmir Earthquake Relief work|
Kashmir Earthquake: Live from the scene by Riputapan
Within an year of the Tsunami disaster in the south, the Earthquake shook the northern part of India with death toll close to 1400. And with Kashmir being a sensitive area for more than a decade now, not many NGOs have come forward to participate actively in the relief / rehabilitation operations.
From my visit to Kashmir three weeks after the disaster, I’ve brought back memories that will be imprinted on my mind forever.
Going from Srinagar, Baramulla is the first place where the damage due to earthquake is quite apparent. Here, most of the houses with weak foundations have fallen. Damaged buildings include schools and banks as well. As we move from Baramulla to Uri, the destruction becomes widespread. Kamalkot (close to LoC) is the last place that one can visit on a motor vehicle. The damage in this place is 100%. After Kamalkot, one has to trek through the mountains to reach the remaining villages.
Amidst all the disaster, there were some soothing facts I came across. Even though people have suffered a lot, their belief is strong that they will come out of it. They do not yet know how they’ll do it, but still there’s no fear in their eyes as was the case with Tsunami victims. Most of the people were more concerned about the future of their children than anything else. Sattarjaan, a widow who also lost her father and brother, said, “I may have lost everything and have no
As for the relief, it has penetrated well to almost all parts of Kashmir (with Indian Army doing a commendable job along with the NGOs). However, still a lot more needs to be done if number of casualties due to this disaster has to be kept at the present number. The inhospitable terrain and expected heavy snow in the winters will only make the matters worse. As of now, only temporary shelters (tents) have been provided to the people rendered homeless and these
The urgent need is to provide the people with corrugate galvanized iron (CGI) sheets so that they can build a house for themselves. Some of them will also need space for their houses as the ground below their existing destroyed houses is not firm enough. The biggest challenge is to provide such material at a rapid pace and even in the most isolated regions. The government has started with distribution of CGI sheets in Tangdhar (where it has snowed already) but it seems to be a daunting task to be able to complete the distribution in all parts of Kashmir before the winter setting in completely (which is as early as December). Here the role of NGOs becomes critical as they can coordinate and reach different parts and help with this distribution.
Rehabilitation through livelihood generation is another area to be looked into. Many families have lost their livestock. Many widows and youngsters are unemployed. It’s estimated that due to snow, most of the affected regions will be inaccessible during December – February, which means that true rehabilitation can not begin until March next year. Also, it’s feared that many NGOs will disappear by then. I interacted with lots of villagers and tried to find out the way they could be truly rehabilitated in the long run. Provision of livestock will greatly supplement their income. For the widows and other ladies,
Government and NGOs may be working hard to help the affected families but they cannot do so without much-needed funds. And that’s where all of us can play our part by contributing generously through trusted sources. Let’s hope and pray that all the affected families recover quickly from the aftermaths of the earthquake.