NEW DELHI: The floods have isolated Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah totally, with his ministers, police, bureaucrats having fled and his party placing itself out of action. Father Farooq Abdullah has disappeared from view leaving his son alone to do what he is best at: talk. He has been vocal in defending himself ever since the floods hit the state, targeting all who criticise him and insisting he was “helpless” as he had been flooded out.

The Army, as the letter from an army doctors wife published in The Citizen, is aghast at the absence of the state machinery with the Chief Minister using his gift for eloquent speech to protect his lack of action. Relief material sent from different states and organisations is lying at the Srinagar airport with no bandobust by the state to pick this up and distribute it. Instead he is more bothered about protecting himself from what he claims are “rumours” the last being emphatic assertions that ‘everyone’ and not just ‘tourists’ were rescued.

There is no central cell, it was never formed by the Chief Minister to issue flood warnings in different parts of the state when the waters first started rising; to monitor and control rescue operations; and now to list, organised and distribute relief material like drinking water, medicine, blankets and of course food to the lakhs of homeless Kashmiris.

All sections of society, including National Conference supporters, are highly critical of the government and the Chief Minister using strong language against the inaction and what many of them described as complete indifference. Abdullah till date does not seem to have an idea of what the government is expected to do, and should do, with several residents who escaped with their lives communicating their worry to The Citizen. As an older Kashmiri said, “I am now worried about what will happen, this government has no idea of what has happened, and where even to begin.” This seems to be the general consensus with deep worry about the vehicle to oversee the largescale relief and rehabilitation, including reconstruction, involved even while the rescue operations are far from over.

The Union Home Ministry has posted a joint secretary to oversee the operations, but both the centre and the Army are finding it difficult to cope without a state government on call. “There never really was a government here but now what little there was has also disappeared,” a Srinagar resident who was rescued just two days ago told The Citizen. There is no central control room, or even a basic hour to hour, day to day plan of action to deal with the monumental crisis.

Key leaders from political parties other than the National Conference are trying to set up a monitoring body, and along with a host of others have just set up the Jammu and Kashmir Citizen Coordination Committee. This in its first meeting “reprimanded the state government and civil administration for a near collapse and ineptness in dealing with the flood crisis.” It further said that “the government’s malfunction has put lives of many people in extreme danger and that its disappointing response in relation to rescue and relief operations was intolerable and totally unacceptable.” And this after two weeks after the flood waters submerged Jammu and Kashmir.

A look at the demands put together by the JKCCC is enough to indicate that nothing has been done by the state government. The bodies of dead animals are still lying around the affected areas to spread disease, dewatering pumps have not been installed to clear low lying submerged areas, basic health care facilities have not been even organised, communication lines still remain badly affected leaving lakhs of people without any means to get help or relief, even garbage is not being cleared.JKCCC includes relief and rescue volunteers, journalists, doctors, researchers, engineers, business persons, social activists and political leaders.

Kashmiri volunteers are trying to fill the vacuum provided by a fleeing government and an inept chief minister. They are using the social media, and sending messages, making phone calls for medical help in the form of doctors and medicines as Srinagar’s one hospital seems to have become the camp for the ill Kashmiris whose number is growing rapidly by the day. Drinking water and food remain in scarcity, with the Army also pointing towards the dire need for a civilian monitoring cell and distribution system, more so as its resources are taken up with the mammoth rescue operations that are ongoing.

At the same time Kashmiris are trying to warn each other against criminals and swindlers who could take advantage of this situation. There is fear, panic, and a complete helplessness added to by the vanishing act performed by the government. The Chief Minister is heard on television and in the media, but not seen on the ground.