April 1, 2015 – Last year, devastating flash floods in Kashmir killed around 250 people and displaced more than a million others. Nearly seven months later, residents in the mountainous region are once again faced with potential floods after several days of incessant rain.
Already, more than 15 people lost their lives in severe landslides and collapsed buildings. “There were 17 people – two families – in the house, which was damaged just now. All 17 trapped inside must be dead now. Rescue work is on,” said a resident of Budgam in Kashmir.
However, that is not all. Agriculture, which accounts for 17 per cent of India’s GDP, is another casualty of the erratic weather that has been setting in over recent months. Unseasonal rains and hailstorms have flattened some 10 million hectares of winter crops in the fertile northern and central Indian regions, forcing farmers concerned about unpaid loans to find quick solutions.
In the past month, reports account for at least five farmers in Central India who committed suicide. However, government officials have continued to call for calm.
“The situation is serious but there is no need to panic, everything is under control,” said Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs. “State government machinery and the paramilitary forces under the Federal Government and forest personnel are doing their job.”
Meanwhile, the plight of farmers is a setback for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as they make up the majority of voters in this region.
The Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party wants to consolidate power by winning local elections in rural provinces over the next two years. However, the latest deluge in Kashmir could spell trouble for the Prime Minister’s party, which forms part of the coalition government that won last year’s state elections in Jammu and Kashmir.
“If we fail the people of Kashmir in providing relief for the floods, then they will lose faith in us than they already have. And therefore, it’s extremely important for the Central Government and the State Government and the whole coalition that they work systematically,” said political commentator Shahid Siddiqui.
“If they are able to provide proper relief then they will win hearts and minds of the Kashmiri people,” he added.
So far, the report card does not look good for the Jammu Kashmir coalition government. Observers have criticised it for having failed to heed early warnings from the meteorological agency, while residents say it is not doing enough to prepare and protect them from the impending floods.