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Srinagar residents wait for hours at a government office to talk to kin outside State on a mobile phone

Cherished hellos: People waiting to make a call to their loved ones in Srinagar on Friday.Vijaita Singh Vijaita Singh

There were tears of both anger and relief at a government office in the heart of , where people had come to make a solitary phone call to their loved ones living outside the State.

As the Kashmir Valley remained under a lockdown for the fifth day, the administration made some arrangements for residents to make calls. Three personal mobile phones of officials working at the Tankipora office were turned into helplines. Residents swarmed the office, with some waiting for more than six hours for their turn. The administration had shared the three numbers on local cable channels.

A plastic chair and a table had been placed on the lawn at the administrative complex where people queued up to register the numbers they wanted to call. Paper slips were handed out as tokens. “There are more than 200 people who have registered since 9 a.m. and only 23 have been able to speak as of now, it’s already 12 p.m. You can calculate how long we have to wait here now,” said Feroze Ansari, a local shopkeeper.

C.L. Vishen had had a death in the family and needed to speak to relatives in New Delhi.

“I have come here so that I can ask when are the rituals planned,” said Prof. Vishen, a Kashmiri Pandit living in Srinagar.

Rashida Eijaz burst into tears at the prospect of a chance to speak to her daughter. “She is in Delhi to pursue a course for two months. My only worry is what if she runs out of money,” said Ms. Eijaz, who had been waiting for over three hours. Sadiq Bhatt, an official at the DC’s office manning one of the lines, said the numbers had been shared on social media on Thursday night and that calls hadn’t stopped coming since then.

28 killed in Kerala, seven die in Karnataka’s Kodagu

Assessing loss: Farmers surveying the damage to their crops at a village in Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu.M . Sathyamoorthy The Hindu

The depression that has caused torrential rainfall mainly in Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, claiming at least 70 lives and forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people, is expected to abate from Saturday, the chief of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said on Friday.

“Except for Rajasthan, there will be a marked reduction in rain from tomorrow [Saturday]. While these are extremely heavy rains, they are nowhere close to record rainfall that these States have witnessed in the past,” M. Mohapatra, Director-General, IMD, told The Hindu.

Extremely heavy rain battered the western coastal States and many parts of the Western Ghats on Thursday night, killing 28 persons in central and northern districts of Kerala and prompting the evacuation of nearly 65,000 people.

Rescue under way

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday that at Kavalappara, near Nilambur in Malappuram district, rescue workers were struggling to trace at least 40 people feared trapped in a massive landslip. “Three bodies have been recovered,” he said after a review meeting.

The bodies of nine people were recovered from Meppadi, Wayanad district, the site of a second landslip. “It is not yet clear how many people were affected... Rescue operations using excavators are in progress. Eleven deaths have been reported in Wayanad district so far,” Mr. Vijayan said.

As of Friday, 64,103 people had been shifted to 738 camps in the flood-hit districts. Thirteen dams — seven maintained by the Kerala State Electricity Board and six by the Water Resources Department — were opened. Twelve teams of the NDRF were deployed and Army units rushed to Idukki and Malappuram, he said.

The IMD has issued red alerts in seven districts — Ernakulam, Idukki, Palakkad, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Wayanad and Kannur — for Saturday.

In Karnataka, mudslides and flash floods in Kodagu district resulted in seven deaths in 24 hours, and eight people were reported missing. There was one rain-related death in Mysuru district. Rain intensified in the southern districts on Friday but abated in the north Karnataka districts.

50,000 flags to be distributed to party workers, motorcycle rallies also planned

Festival of flags: BJP president Ravinder Raina distributing flags at the party office in Jammu on Friday. Damini Nath The Hindu

Ramping up its Independence Day celebration plans after the Centre revoked Jammu & Kashmir’s special status on Monday, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s State unit intends to distribute 50,000 Indian flags to its workers to hoist on August 15.

“People should know that it’s a jashn [celebration],” BJP J&K unit president Ravinder Raina told party workers, who had gathered at the office here on Friday as he distributed flags to them.

As Mr. Raina and the BJP made preparations for motorcycle rallies and programmes on August 15, large parts of Jammu and Kashmir remained under curfew-like conditions for the fifth day.

For the BJP, however, it was time to celebrate. “This time, Independence Day is jashn-e-azaadi for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. This is the first time that we are out of the shackles of slavery,” said Mr. Raina.

With the government revoking provisions under Article 370 of the Constitution, Jammu & Kashmir’s constitution and flag have been scrapped. “We will hoist the tricolour in every panchayat and ward,” he said.

Flags were being flown in from Delhi to Jammu, Srinagar and Leh.

While interacting with a group of sarpanchs and handing over flags to them at the party office, Mr. Raina led those who had gathered through chants of Jahaan hue balidaan Mookerjee, voh Kashmir hamara hai (Where Syama Prasad Mookerjee laid down his life, that Kashmir is ours). Bharatiya Jana Sangh founder S.P. Mookerjee, who had opposed Article 370, had died a detainee of the Sheikh Abdullah government in Kashmir in 1953.

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