This winter after a long time, Kashmir has experienced successive heavy snowfall which has thrown life out of gear: electricity has been erratic, traffic movement has been affected, more so along Jammu-Srinagar highway and the flights have recurrently been grounded.
This is such a sorry state of affairs. More galling has been the recurrent closure of the Jammu-Srinagar highway. The strategic artery has sometimes remained blocked for a week on end. It underlines two things: one, even after seventy years the successive governments have failed to acquire the necessary expertise and resources to ensure the road remains open during inclement weather. Two, the government itself doesn’t take the job seriously. Considering the recurrent closure of the road this year, it is the latter reading of the situation that appears truer. Time and again, the Governor’s administration has been found woefully wanting in its response to an exceptionally harsh winter. And the people of the Valley have had to pay a heavy cost for this.
The shortage of essential supplies has hit the Valley hard. LPG continues to be in short supply. The prices of vegetables, chickens and other items have similarly shot up well beyond common mans purchasing power.
Government has been unable to contain the prices or act against the hoarders. Certainly a three or four day closure of Jammu-Srinagar highway should by no stretch of imagination generate the kind of scarcity that is in evidence in the Valley.
On the other hand, this kind of scarcity is the telling reminder about the pathetic state of our economy which cant sustain a few days closure of the road link with Jammu.It also tells us the story of the incompetence of the successive state governments which have reduced Kashmir to a market for the goods from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan etc.
Winter is the time when this stark reality hits forcefully home. What is more, the state government which already is well aware of these facts and therefore the singular vulnerability of the Valley through winter is guilty of not sufficiently planning beforehand. Even though advisors to the Governor Satya Pal Malik have taken the ritual meetings, assuring people of the adequate buffer stock through winter, a harsh winter has given the lie to these claims.
How one wishes this winter has served as a final lesson for the administration and the knowledge comes handy in its future trysts with the season. For one, the state government needs to not only act fast to keep Jammu-Srinagar highway open in the event of a bad weather but also build alternatives.It is time that Mughal road is built as a viable replacement to Jammu-Srinagar highway. The road was historically used by Mughal emperors to travel to Kashmir in sixteenth century. There is also the need to expedite the work on Udhampur-Baramulla railway line.
But if the past history is any guide, there is little that is going to change. And this winter is a living proof of it.