Srinagar, Oct 28: The additional security personnel brought to Kashmir are gearing up for long valley winters as the authorities have no plans of troop reduction in the region, media reports said on Monday.
As many as 700 companies (70,000 troopers) of paramilitary forces drawn from the CRPF, BSF, SSB and ITBP were brought to Kashmir to maintain ‘law and order’ in the backdrop of the Centre’s decision to revoke Article 370 on August 5.
These are in addition to the over 60,000 paramilitary personnel who are stationed in the Valley year-round.
“Over 1,20,000 items of thermal inner wear, more than 60,000 parka jackets, sleeping bags and blankets, close to 70 insulated pre-fabricated barracks with accommodation for 40 in each, more than 1,500 bukharis (traditional heaters), over 100 specially-designed toilets, hundreds of common bath spaces, thousands of litres of kerosene and miles of tin sheet. This is how about 70,000 additional security forces deployed in the Valley, following the August 5 abrogation of Article 370, are preparing for the long and harsh winter,” The Indian Express reported on Monday.
With Delhi giving no signal on reduction of troops in the Valley, Express quoted a senior officer of the central armed police forces saying: “The last time I asked Delhi how long the additional troops were supposed to be here, I was told not to ask this question before next April. So we have to prepare for a long winter, where we will be largely fighting the elements.”
The additional troops have been living in tents, government facilities, under-construction buildings, warehouses, abandoned homes and yatri camps. “None of these are suitable for winter. A very harsh winter will set mid-November onward. So we are running against time to erect suitable accommodation and procuring winter essentials,” the report quoted another officer saying.
Among the important acquisitions are insulated pre-fabricated barracks. “This is for the first time that we are procuring these, as earlier we have never needed them. These barracks have insulation sheets inside. The CRPF alone is procuring more than 40 of these,” the officer said.
Even the concrete buildings for accommodation are being reinforced with tin sheets, the report quoted sources saying.
“All these accommodations have to be given kerosene-fired bukharis,” the officer said.
Since all additional troops have been drawn from the plains, they never had winter clothing suitable for Kashmir. “Thermals, jackets, blankets and sleeping bags are being procured for each person,” the officer said.
With so many soldiers in temporary accommodation, sources said toilets have become a major issue with long queues every morning. “We do not want to create stress among forces, who are already in a difficult situation. Pit toilets have been built, but they won’t work in winter,” the officer said.
Specially designed toilets have been ordered, which will be connected to sewers linked to the waste management infrastructure. Adequate water supply is also being arranged to ensure hygiene is maintained, sources said.
Given the communication blockade in certain areas and lack of adequate transport, an officer said: “All procurement has to be made online, according to government rules. We had to make some procurement from Delhi — a special Internet connection had to be established in a camp office.”
Given the situation in Kashmir, the material has to be fabricated in Jammu and transported to the Valley. “Private transporters are reluctant to make the journey for reasons of security. We are transporting the entire consignment in our convoys,” the officer said.
Another spell of snow this week
Srinagar, Nov 10: Kashmir should brace up for a second spell of wet weather as officials have predicted widespread snow and rains on Friday and Saturday this week.
An official at the local Meteorological Department said there will be widespread snow and rain in Kashmir on November 15 and 16 (Friday and Saturday) even as the weather till then will remain cloudy with rainfall in isolated places.
“We are experiencing western disturbance over Kashmir which is going to worsen by the end of this week. There are chances of widespread snow and rainfall although its intensity would not be as much as last week’s snowfall,” the official told The Kashmir Monitor.
Kashmir experienced a record breaking November snowfall last Thursday that took everyone by surprise and left a trail of death and destruction across the region.
With electricity and other essential supplies still erratic in most of the places, the heaps of snow on roads and lanes are not melting given that sunshine has stayed aloof these days.
Meanwhile, the so-called all-weather highway connecting Kashmir to the rest of the world was again blocked on Sunday.
Thousands of commuters were stranded on the highway after a massive landslide blocked the road in Ramban in the afternoon, only hours after traffic resumed on the route.
Traffic on the highway resumed around 3 am on Sunday after remaining suspended for over 13 hours following a massive landslide near Mahar – two kms short of Ramban town.
Road clearing agencies worked hard to ensure early opening of the road, but the fresh landslide, covering around 100 metres of the road with debris, played spoilsport, officials said.
The landslide struck near Digdole and at least 12 hours are needed to make the arterial road traffic-worthy. Men and machines have been pressed into service to clear the debris, they said.
According to the officials, hundreds of passenger vehicles and trucks carrying essential commodities to the Valley crossed the Jawahar Tunnel — the gateway to Kashmir — since Sunday morning.
However, the fresh landslide left over 1,300 vehicles stranded on the highway, they said.
Traffic on the highway remained suspended on Thursday and Friday after Kashmir Valley and high altitude areas of Jammu region, including Jawahar Tunnel, experienced first major snowfall.
Heavy rains, which lashed the highway from Banihal to Jammu, was causing frequent landslides, the officials said.
Meanwhile, the Mughal Road, which connects the border districts of Poonch and Rajouri in Jammu region with south Kashmir’s Shopian district, remained closed for the fifth day on Sunday, they said.
The road was closed for traffic on Wednesday after heavy snowfall between Pir Ki Gali and Shopian stretch.
Snow fury: Patient inflow to hospitals drops by 10%
Srinagar, Nov 10: Shedding snowflakes off his tweed pheran, 32-year-old Zubair Ahmad heaves a sigh of relief, as he enters the gates of SMHS hospital, Srinagar.
Hailing from south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, Zubair’s tryst with valley’s first snowfall began on a sad note. His mother developed a searing pain in the stomach on the night of November 7, when all the arterial roads were covered with thick layers of snow.
“Last week, my mother underwent gall bladder surgery. She was doing well until the night of November 7 when she suddenly complained of pain in her stomach. Despite our best efforts, my family members couldn’t ferry her to the hospital. The snow accumulated on the roads made the commute impossible,” he said.
Next morning, Zubair pleaded before several Sumo cab drivers to ferry his mother to the hospital, but it too turned out to be another herculean task.
“The roads remained covered with snow next day as well. All the drivers that I approached refused to undertake the journey. It was after a lot of persuasion that one of the drivers finally agreed but he charged Rs 1700,” he says.
Similarly, 40-year-old Mehraj-ud-din from north Kashmir’s Baramulla district suffered in equal measure due to heavy snowfall. His sister’s surgery scheduled on November 8 got deferred as she was unable to reach the hospital.
“A lot of trees were uprooted outside our home. Besides, the snow clearance of roads was yet to start from our side. As a result, I was unable to take my sister to the hospital,” Mehraj narrates.
It was on the afternoon of November 9 that he finally managed to reach the hospital. “After a lot of haggling, the Sumo driver settled at Rs 1200 to drop us at SMHS hospital.” he says.
On November 8, the unprecedented snowfall, one of the heaviest in recent years left a trail of death and destruction. More than nine people were killed and property worth 100 crore rupees got damaged due to the snowfall.
Consequently, the hospitals in the valley also witnessed a decreased patient inflow.
An official at the Government Super-Specialty hospital, Srinagar said only 30-40 percent patients have visited the hospital for last three days.
“The patients especially the ones who had to come from peripheral hospitals as referrals faced a lot of inconvenience. The administration has shown a lackadaisical approach in dealing with the snow crisis,” he said wishing not be named.
Medical Superintendent, SMHS Hospital Dr Nazir Chowdhary admitted that the patient inflow has dropped. “There has been 10 percent decline in patient inflow for the last three days,” Chowdhary said.
Medical Superintendent of SKIMS, Farooq Jan said: “We were fully geared up to deal with the crisis. However, patient inflow decreased by 10 percent since Wednesday.”
Reverse migration:Life comes a cropper for non-locals in Kashmir
Srinagar, Nov 10: On a chilly November morning, tailor Suresh Kumar along with his four family members is busy loading his belongings including a switching machine into a cab at Tourist Reception Center, here.
Kumar, who has been living in Kashmir for the last 15 years, has cut-short his stay to leave for his home in Uttar Pradesh. Scared after 11 non-locals including truckers, apple trader and labourers were killed, Kumar decided to call it quits and leave for his hometown in UP.
“All my associates from Anantnag left for their homes. I don’t think it will be a wise decision to stay here especially when many non-locals have been attacked in the last one month,” he said.
Kumar has joined a long list of migrant workers who have either left or winding up their businesses to go home following attacks on non-locals in Kashmir.
A cab driver at TRC said on an average nearly 10 to 20 taxis leave for Jammu with migrant workers on board. “Mostly non-locals would leave for their homes in mid-November. In October, people, who would work in north or south Kashmir areas, have left for their homes,” he said.
Non-locals have been leaving the valley since August 5 when central government abrogated article 370 and bifurcated state in two union territories.
Official figures reveal three lakh migrant labourers left Kashmir post abrogation of Article 370. In August last year, five lakh migrant labourers were present in Kashmir. This August only two lakh labourers stayed in Kashmir.
Migrant labourers are the backbone of the workforce that performs different jobs including harvesting apples in Kashmir. Since local labourers are scarce, migrant labourers are skilled and inexpensive.
“Growers had to face immense hardship in absence of non-local labourers. Even fruit markets where they would load apples, remained deserted this year,” said Ghulam Mohammad a grower from Pattan area of North Kashmir.
The migration of non-local labourers also hit developmental works in Kashmir. An official of Roads and Building Department said work on many of their projects have been stopped due to the absence of non-local workforce.