No non-local starving or walking home on foot
Srinagar: When 25-year-old techie Insha arrived from Gurgaon, she was wary about the facilities at the quarantine centre in Srinagar. Images of dingy washrooms, dirty linens and bad food were playing in her mind.
Soon after her arrival by bus, she was shifted to Hotel Suriya on Boulevard. Wary of the facilities, she was a little bit hesitant to check-in. All her perceptions, however, changed when she found more than adequate facilities particularly for the girls.
“My fears proved to be unfounded once I checked in. It felt like home. The facilities in the hotel were quite satisfactory. Washrooms were cleaned daily. Meals were given on time. The menu usually comprised of rice, vegetables, and pulses. Chicken biryani was served once in a week,” she said.
This is not an isolated case. Forty-eight-year-old Ghulam Mohammad, a shawl vendor from Kupwara had never heard of `quarantine’ in his life. When the lockdown was announced, he and his wife found himself stranded in Delhi without work.
When they finally boarded a special train, they heard the horror tales of quarantine from a fellow traveller. Convinced that they would be kept in some dungeon on arrival, the couple had resigned to fate.
However, on reaching Srinagar, they were pleasantly surprised when they were shifted to Hotel Azad at Munwarabad. “The hotel was quite nice and clean. We faced no issues during our quarantine,” the couple said.
Official figures reveal that 89,773 stranded residents have been brought back through 28 COVID special trains, four flights besides scores of buses after strictly observing all necessary preventive measures.
As per the detailed break up, the government has evacuated 66024 residents of J&K, stranded in different states and UTs, through Lakhanpur. So far, 11 trains have reached Jammu with 9634 stranded passengers, while 13,463 passengers have reached Udhampur in 17 special trains.
While the pandemic has caused untold miseries, the sufferings have been beyond measure in some sections of the population. Heart-breaking pictures and narratives of migrants struggling with starvation, exhaustion, and dire neglect have emerged all over the country.
Yet, Kashmir has emerged as an exception as not a single incident of the crisis has been reported. No nonlocal has complained of being left to fend for himself or left to starve. Rather the migrant labourers have been adequately looked after.
The number of complaints regarding quarantine facilities for Kashmiris returning from outside has been comparatively less. While a few stray complaints of unseemly facilities have been raised, on the whole, the travellers have been satisfied with the facilities on offer.
Sample this: The face of Bilal, 35, a non-local, who works in a salon at Karan Nagar area lights up with gratitude when he recalls his hassle-free train journey to the valley a fortnight ago.
However, he grimaces the moment he talks of his younger brother, a migrant worker, who was stranded in Maharashtra. “If not the pandemic, the fatigue, and hunger would surely have killed my brother. Every ounce of his energy was squeezed. On the contrary, my commute was very safe and I was quarantined in a hotel at Lal Chowk with adequate facilities,” he said.
Sub judicial Magistrate, Sogam, Aijaz Ahmad Bhat, who has also served as a nodal officer for designated quarantine centres in Hotel Hemaal and Hotel Malik said that every administrative quarantine centre takes several things into consideration before accommodating people.
“Hotels registered with the tourism department and having sufficient manpower are preferred for quarantine centres. Each hotel has a health team comprising of a doctor and paramedic. They do the routine check-ups of the inmates and constantly monitor their health. The administration has also provided an on-call ambulance facility in case there is a medical emergency,” he said.
Aijaz noted that along with the health team, a sanitation team from Srinagar Municipal Corporation takes care of the fumigation and waste management part. “Besides, hotel management is also roped in this process,” he said.
In rural areas, where the number of hotels is less, the educational institutions are mostly designated as quarantine centres. “In such centres, the administration has made separate arrangements for bedding and increased bed capacity. For meals, there is an in-house mechanism,” he said.
Chairman of Public Health and Sanitation Workers, Tanveer Hussain Pathan said a team from the concerned municipal limits visits the designated quarantine centres every day.
“A dustbin is placed outside every room. We dispose of the trash immediately. Besides, the railing, windows, doors, and surfaces are fumigated daily using shoulder-mounted sprayers,” he said.
Tanveer said that SMC has placed a separate incinerator for the proper disposal of waste generated from the quarantine centres.
“Also, the rooms are properly fumigated when a particular batch leaves a quarantine centre. For that purpose, the canter is closed for one or two days. Then only, new people are accommodated,” he said.
According to the official figures, over 50,000 people are under surveillance in over 10,000 government established quarantine centres across Kashmir. Out of which 152 administrative quarantine centres are in Srinagar city alone.
“Majority of the hotels in Lal Chowk, Boulevard and Rajbagh area have been designated as quarantine centres,” an official spokesman said.
Since these were already primed for tourists; the hotels have served as effective quarantine centres, where the comfort of returnees has not been compromised.
Additional Deputy Commissioner Syed Hanief Balkhi said the administrative quarantine centres have all the essential facilities for the people.
“The administration has ensured a safe and secure quarantine. Still, if any returnee faces any issue, we are always ready to look into it and resolve their grievances,” he said.