The autumn in Kashmir is a season of crimson hue – pleasing and aesthetic. It, however, doesn’t last long but allows a preparatory window for the coming winter. The first snowfall was received in the mountains and meadow resorts of Kashmir last week which brought along winter’s cold. So, the winter this year like the last several years, may come sooner than expected. If it hasn’t come already, that is.
The winter in Kashmir is not a pleasant experience. It brings along miseries – freezing cold, power outage, extra expenses on warm clothing and heating appliances and illnesses. For the poor and the middle class, winter translates to harsh times.
Over the last several years, Kashmir’s winter seasons have come way earlier. There was recurrent snowfall in late autumn when orchardists in some parts had not even completed the harvest. The heavy spells of snowfall in October and November had caused large scale damages to apple orchards as tree branches, still carrying the cover of the leaves, burdened and broke down.
Young children, with their immunity still developing, are susceptible to a series of illnesses. This will place further pressure on the newly inaugurated government-run pediatric hospital which is overburdened with the flow of patients with waiting periods extending several hours.
While the OPD of the new pediatric hospital is visibly understaffed, the situation there is likely to worsen further in the coming winter. So there is a need to properly staff the hospital with an adequate number of doctors so the patients – mostly infants – don’t have to wait in the bitter cold.
There is also a pressing need to keep enough stock of food and other essential commodities to avoid price rise which is already burdening the households. The prices of vegetables have constantly remained high. The frequent suspension of Srinagar-Jammu highway, the only route for supply of commodities into Kashmir valley, always causes significant hike in prices in the winters. So every step should be taken to avoid any depletion of stocks during highway blockades.
There is also a need to take preventive measures to avoid power shutdowns during snowfall. The prolonged power cuts during snowfalls are a cause of extreme misery for the common people. So the administration needs to wake up to this coming reality and prune the tree branches, like it did during the previous years. The pruning of tree branches along the power transmission lines would save a lot of misery during winter.
In such a scenario, it is the duty of the administration to stay prepared. The meetings taking stock of preparation for the winter should be followed up by execution on the ground. The bureaucracy should consult experienced staff members and chart out the preparations. The repeat of the fiasco which happened during the transportation of apples to outside markets shouldn’t happen. So it is of utmost importance for the bureaucracy to do the homework properly.
It is equally important for the bureaucracy, since it is running the administration of Kashmir in the absence of an elected government, to be active on the ground and conduct regular visits to get a feel of the ongoing crises that people face in their day to day lives. The bureaucracy should make it a habit to see to it that the fancy reports reaching them are cross-checked on the ground.
Many faces in the incumbent administration are new to the realities of Kashmir’s winter, which is unlike any other season and experience anywhere else in India. The valley shouldn’t be left at the mercy of fate.
A mild snowfall is endurable but a heavy snowfall can cause crises. The scale and the intensity of these crises is dependent on how heavily it snows.
The promises of the preparation made by the administrations in the past years and decades have always proven hollow and the consequences have been disastrous.
A severe snowstorm can cause the Srinagar-Jammu highway, the only surface route for passenger traffic and supply of essential commodities, to close for several days, or even weeks. It can also cause, like it has done in the past decades, a prolonged suspension of electricity to houses and hospitals. A severe snowstorm can cause the suspension of traffic on the interior roads and highways for several days before the government’s snow clearance machines are able to move across the length and breadth.
In many ways, the winter in its prime is apocalyptic and horrifying. The tradition of Kashmiri households hoarding food stocks for several months is the hard lesson they have learnt from winter months. This tradition of staying prepared for the worst keeps the people going even when the supply lines are suspended due to nature’s fury. This tradition is what the administration needs to take a cue from.
The people at the helm of affairs in Kashmir should understand that the only way to outlive the winter is to be prepared for it. The people at the helm should also know that the winter is already here going by the serious telltale signs we are witnessing for almost a week now. Winters in Kashmir are erratic, intense and keep no strict schedule. The fury can unleash itself unexpectedly. So, with that in mind, it won’t be asking for too much to expect the administration to be fully prepared.