SRINAGAR: After the recent floods devastated Srinagar, Omar Abdullah was shown on TV throwing “Bananas” to the marooned people from the state helicopter. One was reminded about the “Rise of the Planet of Apes”. He should thank God that the people did not pull down his chopper like in the movie!

This “Banana” episode reminded one about the “Banana Republics” of South America. According to Wikipedia, “Banana republic is a political science term for a politically unstable country, whose economy is largely dependent on exporting a limited-resource product, e.g. bananas. It typically has stratified social classes, including a large, impoverished working class and a ruling plutocracy of business, political, and military elites. This politico-economic oligarchy controls the primary-sector productions to exploit the country's economy”. The exploitation, corruption and nepotism associated with Kashmir is the same as in those republics.

Jammu and Kashmir has virtually been turned into a “Banana Republic” by the last scion of the Abdullah dynasty! This was evident during the most destructive flood in its recent history. In fact, the entire political elite from 1947 onwards has been responsible for turning Kashmir into a virtual “Banana Republic” with the lead role being played by the Abdullah dynasty. The dynasty had to meet its nemesis but unfortunately for Kashmiris, it took along entire Kashmir! Probably because most of us had for materialistic worldly reasons stood with it rather than stood against it!

The flood was in fact Nature’s backlash as it had been plundered mercilessly for last few decades. The Jhelum burst its banks in vicious ferocity drowning Srinagar’s elite, for a change, in its muddy and murky waters. The posh localities of Shivpora, Indra Nagar, Sonawar, Raj Bagh, Jawahar Nagar, Gogji Bagh and Wazir Bagh were all under 10 to 20 feet of water. It was probably for the first time that the upper classes had faced such a disaster. Most of the downtown area had mercifully been spared. The encroachers in Dal Lake too were submerged. In fact, Dal and Nageen Lake had become a large water body of the earlier times. It too was a revenge of the ravaged Dal Lake!

The destruction and damage in south Kashmir too has been colossal. Some villages have been completely washed away. It is supposed to have been the most destructive flood after the one in 1893. As reported the disaster had been predicted by some local engineers in a report submitted to the “Banana” government in 2010. However, the report got drowned in bureaucratic and political wrangling between the state and the centre. In fact, the government had ignored the warning about possible flash floods given by the Met Office.

The coming of the flood and the handling of the situation during and after it are typical of the South American “Banana Republics”! The entire political set up and their administrative machinery disappeared like the dictators in these countries who run away with their material possessions and lackeys. It is the brave new generation of Kashmiris and the Army which rescued people. In fact, some of the Army rescuers complained that there was no one from the local administration to guide them unlike Uttarakhand where they had been on earlier rescue missions. There was mess up in dewatering pumps. Most of the posh localities remained water logged for more than 20 days after the receding of flood waters. Even now some of these areas are still water logged! People on their own breached some embankments of the main river and the flood spill-over channel to drain out water unmindful of the future consequences. The role of the government and its paralytic administration deserves not only its immediate removal but prosecution for criminal negligence!

What is most surprising is the dithering on the part of the central government. By all accounts it has been a national calamity. The most bandied about “Crown of India” had been devastated but the reaction and response from those climbing every pulpit to proclaim it as an integral part was nothing but lukewarm. There could not have been a better opportunity to bridge the gap of alienation than this tragedy. One fails to understand why, on the contrary, the Government of India should refuse permission to foreign agencies especially those connected with healthcare, cleaning, rehabilitation and relief from coming to Kashmir. In fact, they should have been themselves asking for expert international aid to deal with the situation. During the destructive earthquake of 2005, the Pakistan Administered Kashmir received unlimited foreign aid especially in the field of healthcare like prefabricated hospitals and shelters. It did not change the basic political situation of the area. If the Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been true to his word of winning the hearts and minds of the people, he would have been here with his all American and other international corporate friends to give succour to the devastated and suffering people of Kashmir! He can still do it by sending the local politicians on a long leave of a year or two and bringing in an upright and dynamic person with some capable advisors to run the administration with the involvement of national and international assistance. Will he do it? That is the million dollar question!

(Mohammad Ashraf,IAS, is the former Director General of Tourism, Jammu and Kashmir).