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Want to cross the highway, look for a magistrate first!

Photo of civilian’s hand stamped for approval goes viral, picked by Intl’ travel magazine

Nisar Dharma

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Srinagar, Apr 10: A man required an approval from a magistrate to simply cross the road in Sangam, a settlement in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, on Wednesday, the second day of the two-day-a-week ban authorities last week imposed on civilian movement on Srinagar-Jammu highway.

The photo of the civilian’s right-hand palm carrying the stamp, signature and Wednesday’s date with a note ‘Allow to Sangam’ soon went viral on social media drawing huge criticism and ridicule.

A Naib Tehsildar, who was one among the 25 officers designated by the district administration last week to regulate traffic on several crossings on the highway during the banned days, told The Kashmir Monitor that he had to stamp the man on his hand since he (officer) had “run out of passes.”

 

The man, the officer said, was a local and needed the permission to cross the highway.

The viral photograph gathered a lot of social media attention.

“This is how permission is granted to people in J&K to use their highway. Their hands are being stamped & written on. I don’t know what to say! Should we be flippant & mock the attempt at saving paper? I’m just angry at the degrading, inhuman treatment being meted out to people,” tweeted Former J&K Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah.

“There was a time when employment orders were issued on a pack of cigarettes and there is a time when Highway pass is issued in this way….#KashmirTragedy. Hope the stamp is not washed away before reaching the destination,” read a post by one Facebook user. 

“A civilian granted permission to drive from home to office on the Kashmir highway. The highway magistrate stamp is only valid till next hand wash! It reminds me of a movie from Hitler’s era,” tweeted journalist Peerzada Ashiq.

The viral photograph was also picked by Conde Nast Traveller, an international travel magazine, which posted on their website and wrote about the recent Highway ban in Kashmir.

“Anyone who wants to get on the Jammu-Srinagar highway on Sunday or Wednesday now needs a permission from the administration. And if that piece of official paper isn’t available, they may have to bear the proof of access on their body,” read the opening paragraph of the article by Conde Nast.

Last week, the J&K government notified two dedicated days in a week (Sundays and Wednesdays) exclusively for movement of government forces’ convoys on the highway while ordering a complete ban on civilian traffic during the days on the Highway. The order will remain in force till May 31.


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Another spell of snow this week

Nisar Dharma

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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.

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Snow fury: Patient inflow to hospitals drops by 10%

Hirra Azmat

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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.”

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Reverse migration:Life comes a cropper for non-locals in Kashmir

Firdous Hassan

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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.

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