Winter's Tale

OVER the past week, Kashmir has been in the grip of a severe cold wave. The intervening night of Monday and Tuesday was the coldest in Srinagar with temperature dipping to -2.3 degrees Celsius. At Khanabal, the mercury dropped to -4 degrees Celsius. Srinagar remained covered with fog, reducing visibility. The day temperature has been hovering at most of the places between 13 and 15.6 degrees Celsius except Gulmarg, which recorded 9.8 degrees C day temperature. As things stand, each new night will beat the previous night’s record. This is so even when the Valley is almost a month away from Chilla Kalan, the 40 days of the harshest cold.

In the last few years, Kashmir has experienced advancing of the commencement of winter. Last year, the snow had fallen in November itself and in the subsequent Chilla Kalan, the Valley had witnessed bone chilling cold and the successive snowfalls. It was after many years that one could witness the long icicles hanging off the eaves. Most taps, water bodies, including the Dal Lake froze. People experienced severe hardships with water pipes freezing and in many cases bursting. There were also instances of the cracking of water tanks in many homes. Besides, due to lack of clearance of snow, many villages in south, central and north Kashmir remained cut off from district headquarters.

Such scenes could very well repeat this winter. The exceptionally severe nature of the recent winters has hardly made the government more sensitive towards the needs of the people. In fact, this winter the administration seems struggling to get its act right. The people have more or less been left to fend for themselves.

Compared to past winters, nothing has changed for the better on the ground. In fact, in some aspects, the situation is only worse off. The power supply has reduced to a trickle in parts of the Valley, with long unscheduled power cuts the order of the day - albeit, in some urban areas including the situation on power front has been relatively better. Both metered as well as unmetered areas have already been slapped with a drastic load-shedding schedule.

Now that with each passing day, the Valley is heading deeper into winter and into the cold embrace of Chilla Kalan, the government can be hoped to prepare for the tough times ahead. Snowfalls could soon become the order of the day. One benefit of a snow-bound winter has been that there is a marginal rise in the arrival of tourists. But the economy already reeling from the successive lockdown of the past one and a half year has been dealt too severe a blow to recover anytime soon.

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