SC asks Centre about rescue, relief measures taken for Jammu and Kashmir floods

Writ Petition (Civil) No. 826/2014 VASUNDHARA PATHAK MASOODI versus UNION OF INDIA Supreme Court, Delhi Unit, Environmental Rights The Supreme Court asked the Centre to explain what relief and rescue measures have been undertaken to accelerate rescue, relief and rehabilitation operations for the flood victims in Jammu and Kashmir on a petition filed by social activist and lawyer Vasundhara Pathak Masoodi along with the HRLN. The Petitioner mentioned that the "eight districts namely; Kulgam, Anantnag, Shopian, Pulwama, Ganderbal, Baramulla, Budgam and Srinagar are gravely affected by the floods."Immediate requirement of large number of helicopters, doctors, medicines, food including pediatric food, baby articles, blankets, life jackets, drinking water, sanitary pads, tents, warm clothes and footwear, fuel and other essential supplies. The petitioner submitted that the calamity requires a national response and should be declared as a natural disaster and national disaster. The petitioner also submitted the point of all the Union Territories and States coming together to help in such a situation. The Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, informed the Court that the Union Government is aware of the situation and a committee headed by Prime Minister is overseeing and coordinating the rescue and relief operations. The rescue efforts being pursued by the Army was also highlighted by Mukul Rohtagi and he also informed that the Chief of Army Staff himself was monitoring these operations. The petitioners also acknowledged the work being done by the army but also said that the situation required more. The Bench headed by the Chief Justice R M Lodha in its order said, "It needs no emphasis from us that a calamity and disaster as huge as this deserves national response so that immediate relief is made available to the victims of floods." It also said that it is not in doubt that government of India is concerned about the calamity. However, it asked the government to consider the points mentioned by senior advocate Colin Gonsalves. The Court also said, "The Government of India may also consider forming a unified agency for proper co-ordination of rescue, relief and rehabilitation operations. It goes without saying that supply of food, drinking water, medicines, fuel and other essential supplies deserve top-most priority and so also the restoration of communication and provision for health-care facilities. After all, lives of people who are affected by such disaster have to be saved." Relief efforts have been stepped up as authorities said that over 1, 30,000 people have been rescued so far, with the death toll gone beyond 200. Air Force, Army and Navy along with the team of NDRF have been put into action in the state. The army has deployed around 30,000 soldiers for rescue and relief operations. Distribution of foods packets, water and other essential materials is also being done. 80 medical teams of the Armed Forces Medical Services are operating in full swing. Four field hospitals have also been established. Several airlines too have been flying people out from Jammu and Kashmir, without any charges. However, the locals feel that much more is required, with the death toll increasing day by day. Meanwhile, more relief materials including blankets, water bottles and food packets are being airlifted from Hyderabad, Ahmadabad, Delhi, Patna, Amritsar and Chandigarh.