Srinagar, Nov 8: The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) Friday asked the people to keep a record of the damages they suffered due to Thursday’s unseasonal heavy snowfall that threw life completely out of gear across the valley.
The snowfall, one of the heaviest Kashmir has seen in recent years, shook the valley while damaging power lines, trees, houses, and even leading to human casualties.
“The chamber would like to request all those who may have been adversely affected to kindly keep a verifiable record of the losses incurred by them and others within their knowledge. We shall be making efforts to reach out to the stakeholders to share their grief and also to extend support in whatever way may be able to do. When the communications blocked is removed, information regarding losses may kindly be conveyed to us,” the KCCI spokesperson said in a statement here.
He expressed shock at the “contemptuous manner” in which the lives and properties of the population of Kashmir continue to be dealt with.
“Major damage has been caused to the crops, fruits, trees and properties. The horticulture sector once again bears the brunt of this damage. If alerted in time, the growers and farmers could have taken steps to protect whatever they could have. Many trees could have been saved and much of the damage limited. Which reminds us that no lesson has been learnt from the damage caused by the last year’s snowfall on Nov 3,” he said.
“The roads have become slippery and deadly. People, including children, women and the elderly are trapped in their homes left at the mercy of harsh winter conditions without basic amenities…the plight of patients and persons requiring medical attention and those critically dependent on medical device requiring electricity can only be imagined. Landlines are dysfunctional and the mobile devices are useless without electricity,” the spokesperson added.
He said as per reports thousands of vehicles have suffered some degree of damage due to the accidents caused by slippery conditions and people have not only suffered minor and major injuries due to the accidents but there are reports of loss of life as well.
“Presently, the Chamber can only confirm the deaths of two persons Manzoor Ahmad Ruena who died in Habak when a tree fell on the auto-rickshaw he was travelling in and Ghulam Jeelani Khan of Tumluhaal Pulwama who reportedly died while clearing snow at Lassipora but there are reports of other deaths as well,” he said adding, the death toll is likely to be much higher but in view of the communication breakdown it will take time to confirm.
“The resilience of the Kashmiri people has once again been put to test and we believe that this calamity too irrespective of its severity will be weathered with grit determination and high spirits,” the Chamber said.
Drawing parallels with last year’s snowfall in November which too resulted in huge damage to horticulture, the Chamber said that in view of the restrictions on internet, social media and almost half of mobile users, it was the responsibility of the government to effectively alert the population about the impending weather conditions.
“Steps were required to be taken for advising people not to come out of their homes and ensuring uninterrupted access to basic amenities. But it appears to be woefully unprepared and clueless. It has not even bothered to put up the customary firefighting show this time around,” it said.
Last year, the Chamber had assessed the losses to be in the vicinity of Rs 500 crores which was also later endorsed by the then state government.
It had then urged the government to take the responsibility for its failure to provide protection of the crop insurance scheme to the farmers and orchardists of Kashmir.
The Chamber also questioned the absence of the underground power cabling which could have ensured regular power supply, plugged power leakages and also saved the trees which are cut due to their proximity to power lines.
The government had then declared the snowfall as a “special calamity” and promptly assessed the damages. Compensation to the tune of around Rs 200 crores was disbursed.
“But one year down the line, the questions have not only resurfaced but have become more serious. As an area prone to calamities and disasters, steps aimed at prevention, protection, and management of calamities should have by now been in place. Crop insurance for Kashmir has still not seen the light of the day. Despite adequate warnings and alerts been given to it in this regard, by its failure to take effective steps, the government has made itself liable not for compensation but to pay damages,” the KCCI spokesperson said.
He said that the Chamber shall be exploring legal remedies available for bringing those responsible to account and also to claim damages for the losses and injuries including fatal ones caused to members of the population including medical patients, children, women and the elderly “by what can only be termed as criminal negligence.”
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.