Srinagar: Confronting public anger in flood-battered Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today said, "My government couldn't respond in the first 24 hours as we didn't have a government."
The state government has come under criticism from people who say rescue and relief efforts reached six days after the floods - the worst the state has faced in over a century - and there was "no sign of a government" in response to the massive humanitarian crisis. (Kashmir Floods: 10 Latest Developments)
Speaking to NDTV, the Chief Minister said, "For the first 24 to 36 hours that was my question (Where's the government?). Can you remember a single natural disaster that took out the capital city? I had no government. I started rebuilding efforts with six people in a room. My secretariat, the police headquarters, the control room, fire services, hospitals, all the infrastructure was under water."
He added, "I had no cellphone and no connectivity. I am now starting to track down ministers and officers. Today I met ministers who were swept up by the floods."
Over 200 have died and lakhs of stranded people are still waiting for help after heavy rain last week left large parts of the state submerged. Over one lakh people have been rescued by the armed forces along with the National Disaster Response Force. (Here is how you can help)
Rescue teams have faced public fury; the Air Force has been forced to scale back efforts to pull out people from marooned homes after several incidents of stone-throwing today.
The 44-year-old chief minister alleged that the attacks were being provoked by "usual elements fishing in troubled waters."
He said, "This is not just anger. People are moving from unaffected places to create trouble. While resentment, anger, slogan-shouting is from people angry with rescue efforts, snatching boats, throwing stones is not from people who are struggling for relief."
Asked whether he thought that maximum credit for the relief efforts had gone to the army, Mr Abdullah replied, "The armed forces have done a very commendable job under very tough circumstances. If people want to blame my government, so be it. I am not going to get into a credit battle." (Rescue Operations not a credit game, says Omar Abdullah: Highlights)