India's Modi announces relief package for flood-hit Kashmir

Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party supporters gesture as they march towards Governor House, where Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to meet with some flood-affected Kashmiris, in Srinagar on Oct 23, 2014. Indian Prime Minist
Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party supporters gesture as they march towards Governor House, where Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to meet with some flood-affected Kashmiris, in Srinagar on Oct 23, 2014. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday announced a 7.5 billion rupee (S$156 million) relief package for flood-hit Kashmir as his Bharatiya Janata Party seeks to expand support beyond the mainly Hindu lowlands of Jammu. -- PHOTO: AFP

SRINAGAR, INDIA (Reuters) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday announced a 7.5 billion rupee (S$156 million) relief package for flood-hit Kashmir as his Bharatiya Janata Party seeks to expand support beyond the mainly Hindu lowlands of Jammu.

Mr Modi's visit to the flood affected state on Diwali - the Indian festival of lights - comes in the build up to elections in the affected state of Jammu and Kashmir by the end of the year.

Hundreds of people were killed and thousands of villages were devastated by the worst flooding in decades in the Kashmir valley, a mainly Muslim region with a history of separatist violence.

Mr Modi announced 5.7 billion rupees in assistance for housing and 1.8 billion rupees to fix six major hospitals in the state that are in poor condition and need immediate federal support, a government statement said.

"India shares the grief of Jammu and Kashmir. The government stands with the people in rehabilitation efforts," Mr Modi said.

Mr Modi last month announced a first round of central assistance of 10 billion rupees for the state. Thursday's relief package is a fraction of the state's demand for a package of around 150 billion rupees for 350,000 structures including more than 250,000 houses damaged in the floods.

"We were expecting more from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. What is it? Just, peanuts. The loss due to floods is huge. It is a cruel joke for us people," Mr Mushtaq Ahmad, whose house collapsed in the floods, told Reuters.

In the next state elections, the BJP wants to oust regional leader Omar Abdullah, who was allied to the Congress-led government that was defeated in the national election in May.