Of Quarantined Love, Window Talks, Masked Workforce

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Jyotsna Bharti

As surging COVID-19 cases are sweeping major media attention in pandemic times, the newsy region of Kashmir is equally trending for other significant happenings.

Some of that unconventional news, as it appears these days, is about the mental health specialists—advising people to hit the old routine to keep their sanity intact in the pandemic lockdown.

While in other news, Raj Bhavan is acting as a tough headmaster on the private schools for resorting to pay-cut of their “underpaid” staff in current health crisis times.

Here’s Kashmir Observer’s quick news list:

‘When Valentine became Quarantine’

Before novel coronavirus would hold the world hostage, the two lovers—Umar and Asmat—from Kashmir had met in New Delhi, with a promise to meet again on April 7 in Kashmir.

But a report in The Tribune authored by journalist Samaan Lateef says that before leaving New Delhi for her home in Kashmir, Ismat lost her phone in Nizamuddin area next to Tabligh-e-Jamaat’s Markaz described by some as the “epicenter of the CoVID-19 quake in India”.

As her phone turned silent, authorities in New Delhi red-flagged J&K police that Ismat was present in the area during the religious gathering at Nizamuddin Markaz.

“Like many other lovers in Kashmir, Ismat was using the SIM card registered on her fiancé’s name — described both as a gesture of love and surveillance,” the report said.

Umar filed an online complaint with Delhi Police to get a duplicate SIM card for Ismat in Srinagar.

Umar returned home on March 20 while Ismat, who has a family business in New Delhi, on March 24. Next day Umar sent her the duplicate SIM card through his cousin brother.

Minutes after she switched on her phone, she got a cop call, asking her to present before local hospital for check-up and get ready for quarantine in a hotel.

After dodging repeated summons, a neighbor conveyed her the police message for attending quarantine. It was April 7, her birthday.

“Ismat called her fiancé that she could not handle the situation anymore and would go into quarantine,” the report said. “Umar sought few minutes to decide, only to offer that he will go on her behalf because SIM card was registered in his name and police can’t say no to it.”

“How could I bear sending her into a hotel quarantine and sit at home,” the report quoted Umar as saying. “It is not fair in love.”

Back home, Ismat regrets that she allowed her fiancé to go into the quarantine. “I often joke him that you are my quarantine and not valentine,” she said.

The Mask Workforce

Mufti Sadia a fashion designer makes masks at her home in Srinagar. KO Pic: Abid Bhat

After a certain woman entrepreneur in Srinagar was spotted at her workplace making masks in lockdown, the move was hailed, “as the need of the hour”, given how chemist stores in city and countryside had run out of their stock due to panic-buying.

Since then, thanks to domino effect, the initiative has engaged many more Kashmiri women in masking their community against the rampaging germ.

These women are at the job when General Administration department in Kashmir has made it mandatory to wear a face mask for all the officers, staffs and visitors in the Civil Secretariat as a preventive measure.

Governor on Campus Governance

The UT government has cautioned private educational institutions against cutting salaries of the staffs and teachers during this crucial time of lockdown and pandemic.

Director School Education Kashmir, Dr Younis Malik said they would soon hold a meeting with private schools and discuss the exploitation issue in detail.

The move came after private school staff—otherwise decrying meager salaries—feared an imminent pay-cut amid pandemic. Raj Bhavan’s curt intervention, many say, has come as a sigh of relief for the distressed staff.

Social Media Policing

Ever since an open FIR was lodged by Kashmir’s first Cyber Police Station against the “misusers” of social media early this year, the virtual space is witnessing a growing policing.

Recently, when Indian Apex Court gave a week’s time to GC Murmu’s administration to clear its stand on the restoration of the high-speed internet in J&K, the Cyber Police Station issued a statement, saying a case has been registered against certain fake-news peddlers on the social media.

“We believe the main purpose of the rumour mongers is to distract the attention of the security forces from doing anti-pandemic duties,” a police officer said.

Throng Windows, Not Doors

Photo By Dar Yasin

As the self-isolation and lockdown have taken a toll on people’s mental health, psychiatrists in the valley have asked people to follow the old tradition of ‘Daraev kin Darbar’, wherein people would talk through windows while remaining home quarantined.

The continuing lockdowns since last August have escalated in the outbreak of COVID-19 which has triggered anxiety among the people of Kashmir.

The psychiatrists of IMHANS have issued guidelines to deal with anxiety, panic attacks, etc after receiving phone calls and messages from people complaining of various illnesses.

Cracks in Covid-19 Combat

J&K RTI Movement has alleged that there’s a shortage of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) across Kashmir.

According to the WHO, “PPE is most important in preventing transmission of virus not only in treatment centres but also various other activities, like cleaning, waste management and safe burials and community care related to the outbreak.”

RTI Movement suggests that the Government must incentivize the healthcare services being provided by the health care workers with all the required facilities.

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