Kashmir: A Govt in absentia

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Kashmir witnessed a snowfall on Monday. It is early March and this snowfall is not entirely unexpected. Srinagar city witnessed snowfall of about one foot, with areas in South Kashmir and higher regions witnessing more snowfall. All this snowfall has managed to do for the people in the valley is more misery. As it is, the government and the administration in Kashmir during winter months is largely absent and people are left to fend for themselves. The situation is no different with this particular snowfall. In fact this time the problems and misery for the common man in Kashmir have exacerbated with administrative apathy and indifference.

It has been a harrowing few days for Kashmiris after the snowfall on Monday. All the basic services have been severely affected, without any administrative and government response to the people’s woes. When the snowfall stopped and it started melting, the problems got more aggravated. The most essential services like electricity, roads and water were the worst hit. Most parts of Srinagar city and the entire valley have gone without electricity for many days now and the situation still looks grim. Road services have been in a mess. Not only is the Jammu-Srinagar national highway closed for many days, thereby adversely affecting the supply of essential goods, but the roads within the valley and Srinagar city also present a picture of despair and hopelessness. The electricity department and the municipal organisations have not actually cognizance of the grim situation. As always, the administration is waiting for the things to settle on their own. Not only have the electricity services and the roads been severely hit, but even cellular and internet services have remained erratic. This has virtually cut off the valley from the rest of the world. The local train and ari services have also been badly hit.  

Officials had claimed that the electricity supply would be restored by Tuesday evening, which proved to be an empty promise. There was no sight of electricity in the capital city Srinagar and other towns and villages of the valley. This breakdown in the civic amenities has once again exposed the tall but false claims of the State Government about being responsive and decisive in dealing with any crisis. Even the hospitals were not spared. Most hospitals faced power outages with even the major hospitals like B & J Hospital and Lal Ded Hospital also being hit by these outages. The central heating system in most hospitals was not working putting patients to discomfort in this cold and inclement weather.

People in the valley face huge challenges during the winter months when the Government functions out of Jammu and there is hardly any redressal mechanism in place, which could address the grievances of people. In the backdrop of this grim scenario, it becomes imperative for the Govt to set up a dedicated team of experts and professionals, who could tackle such situations, so that people have to go through these harrowing times every time the weather turns inclement. As of now, there is absolutely no preparedness on part of the Government to deal with any such situations. Every time one hears the authorities give lip service and making tall claims about dealing with difficult situations, but every one in Kashmir knows how empty these claims are. Unfortunately there are no contingency plans in place and one doesn’t even feel optimistic that anything worthwhile be done in the near future. For Kashmiris, it has always been an individual fight for survival, rather than one where the State feels obliged to discharge its duties.

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