In besieged Kashmir, Govt helpline helps those who help themselves

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Srinagar, July 27: The recently-launched government helpline for the besieged seven-million odd people of Kashmir has proved nothing beyond a “political stunt” by the ruling Peoples Democratic party –Bharatiya Janta  Party alliance  as the administration has been unable to offer any respite to the destitute callers who are mostly asked to help themselves.

For Salman Ahmed(name changed), a student from Shopian studying at Oxford Medical College Bangalore, the announcement of government helpline, as per him, was expected to bring some hope after over a fortnight of gag.

But the helpline service, offered through BSNL phones of some civil administration officials in Kashmir, ended up brining more miseries than respite he expected.

“I had been running short of resources, particularly money and had no contact with my family back home as the mobile communication was snapped… Finally when the helpline was announced, I called the concerned officials including those in DC office Shopian that I am running short of money,” Ahmed told Kashmir Observer.

He said the officials who picked up the phone responded “don’t worry, we’ll help you out.” But the help was “shocking.”

The district administration instead of lending him any help passed on a message in his native Damodar village that “he was in trouble in Bangalore.”

The news spread like wildfire in the south Kashmir village. Almost all the villagers who learnt about the news at once rushed to Salman’s residence.

Witnesses said the presence of crowds left his family worried “if everything is OK with their son.” On being told that he was in “some trouble in Bangalore”, the worries only festered.

Having no access to telephonic communication from the native village, his family started a march on foot towards central Kashmir, wherefrom they managed to contact him on BSNL postpaid, the only mobile service operational till July 27, when mobile communication was partially restored.

Salman said getting to know about how difficult it had been for his family to contact him, he avoided seeking any money from them. “I have managed money. You don’t worry please. Take care of your own self,” the medical student faked to his family.

Talking to Kashmir Observer, Salman said the government helpline only furthered the woes.  “If the government can’t help the people why the heck is it boasting to have started the helpline?” he lamented.

But then, Salman is not the only one left dejected by the helpline.

People said the administration couldn’t even help them provide safe passage for wounded to be rushed to hospital. “We informed the helpline that CRPF was disallowing the wounded in street protests from being rushed to Srinagar hospitals. But the   official who picked up the phone said we better try some alternate means of providing treatment to the patients or wait till situation improves,” said a delegation from south Kashmir.

The residents of old Srinagar said they had sought lifting of curfew or being allowed movement to get home essentials but to no avail. “I told the helpline that people are running short of essential supplies including baby food, but the official at the other end asked us to manage things till situation improves,” said a delegation of locals from Nowhatta area of congested old City, the Shaher-e-Khaas here.

Many others complained that the helpline was giving false assurances. “Though they talk very humbly and listen to our woes, they only end up assuring that ‘don’t worry help will come’. But help never came,” said an old man from besieged old City. 

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