Charges For “Mercy”!
By Mohammad Ashraf
08 July, 2015
(Nothing can be more callous than asking people to pay for the mercy shown to them during their distress!)
Being merciful to a fellow human being in distress is the very basic quality of true humanity. However, for a state to be helpful to any citizen in distress is its very first duty. The most important human right in the constitution is the right to life of a citizen. There is a very strong and extensive debate going on in the media and on social networks about the Rs. 500 crore bills presented to J & K Government for the rescue operations conducted by various Defence related organisations during the flood of September, 2015. Normally, such lifesaving operations are termed as “Mercy Missions” in defence parlance and are paid for by the agencies conducting these. The concerned agencies get reimbursed by the central government for all expenditure on this account. Taxes collected by the government from its citizens are for providing various services to them as also to guarantee their security of life. All citizens are to be treated on par in this regard no matter which part of the country they live in.
Globally, there are umpteen organisations involved in assisting people during natural disasters. International Red Cross goes immediately to any site where a natural calamity has taken place and human lives are to be saved. Similarly, there are so many similar organisations rendering scour to the suffering people. However, none of these humanitarian organisations presents bills to the country or the people rescued and helped. India has been rendering similar assistance to all over the world not only to its own nationals in distress but to the nationals of all other countries requiring any humanitarian assistance. The most recent example is the earthquake in Nepal. Probably no bills have been preferred to the Nepalese Government? Within the country, some time back Uttrakhand faced massive devastation due to rains and flood. They too were not presented with any rescue bills!
The case of Kashmir is different. It has a special status governed by Article 370. Usually Defence authorities raise bills for their services when sought under, “Aid to Civil Authorities”. At the time of the Kashmir flood the government had vanished into thin air. The aid rendered was spontaneous and timely and a central initiative. The Chief Executive of the State was throwing bananas from his State helicopter. If Kashmir is considered an integral part and all Kashmiris are Indian nationals, then the September flood was a national calamity. It is beside the point that the Central Government dithered and did not declare it as a national calamity. There seem to be some reservations in considering Kashmiris as full-fledged Indian nationals.
All these years, it has been quite often demonstrated that the Kashmir’s warring neighbours are after Kashmir and not Kashmiris! While this side considers Kashmir an integral part and the crown of India, the other side calls it the jugular vein and unfinished agenda of partition. Both don’t give a damn about Kashmiris! Had the other side been so concerned about Kashmiris, they would have raised global hue and cry and even approached UN for allowing international assistance in rendering succour to the people of what they claim to be a “disputed” territory whose future according to them is still undecided. In their own case, during 2005 earthquake they opened all gates for flow of international assistance to the part under their administrative control. On the contrary, the Central Government while dithering in rendering succour on one hand has refused all International assistance on the other stating they are “capable” of doing it themselves. As an anti-climax, instead of coming out with a reasonably sound aid package for relief, rehabilitation and future flood prevention, they have presented a bill for Rs. 500 crores to the state government for the “Mercy Missions” undertaken during the flood! There cannot be anything crueller than that!
Just for hypothetical reasons if one considers case of Kashmir, as an independent sovereign country, what would have been the response of international community? Direct assistance with all the relief material and equipment may have been flowing into Kashmir round the clock. By now Kashmiris would not only have been fully rehabilitated but massive efforts through resourceful international companies would have been under way for prevention of future floods. On the contrary nothing seems to have moved. Forget the relief and restoration; the Kashmiris are on their toes just after a couple of days of rainfall. We have just missed two possible floods and one is not sure what would happen with a longer duration rainfall? The continued dithering is hiding a possible disaster of a greater magnitude!
The recent actions of the Central Government having a partnership in the State Government have alienated Kashmiris further. A feeling is growing that in spite of tall claims, Delhi does not consider Kashmiris to be Indian nationals at par with others in different parts of the country. Everything is taken up here with a different yard stick. Be it security concerns, human rights, power projects or aid for restoration and so on. Even the present set up has started shaking up. Top leaders are advising for breaking up the alliance. If Delhi really cares for Kashmiris and considers them Indian nationals, they should immediately take up on war footing the flood prevention measures through resourceful global agencies on a turnkey basis within a definite time frame regardless of the state government’s own administrative lethargy. Other programmes can wait! Kashmiris are very resilient and patient. But there is a saying “Beware of the fury of a patient man”!
Mohammad Ashraf, is Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir
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