Winter woes see no end in Kashmir
Rayees Ahmad Kumar
The winter season is at its peak right now in Kashmir. Though the region witnesses four seasons but winter is very crucial in Kashmir. Kashmir which is known as paradise on earth is also famous for its suitable climate and pleasant seasons which attracts both domestic as well as foreign nationals during its all seasons.
It is because of this beauty that tourism has attained the status of an industry here and a big chunk of population is associated with tourism sector whose livelihood is directly linked with thronging of visitors to the valley. The cold we feel in Kashmir in winter season, everyone means children, women and old men face a lot of difficulties because everything in winter becomes ice cold, and it is difficult for a common man to live here.
I think without electricity life becomes so bored and complicated as every happiness of life gets withered. Before few months it becomes mandatory to everyone to prepare for such a huge and challenging season of winter and a preparation of common people is at high level.
Buying woolen and other warm garments for all family members, keeping Kangris/ firepots ready for each family member including children and a couple of these reserved for the guests who visit during the chill season is really a costly affair and a big proportion of Kashmiri population can’t afford such things and they feel pleased to leave the valley and settle in Jammu or in other states of India where they work during the season and give respite to themselves and their families from the biting cold of winter.
Making charcoal from the firewood months before the onset of winter for using them in Kangris during the peak winter period and sundrying vegetables like bottle guard, tomatoes, brinjal, spinach, beans and dandelion has been our centuries old traditional practice.
Our markets also see a huge rush of people during the winter season as they are bound to purchase the winter items much needed to overcome the shivering chill and also the houksun/sundried vegetables if not prepared at home during summer season.
Grocery items, vegetables and fruits are unexpectedly sold at expensive rates during the winter in valley. When vendors are asked about the reasons of hiking unnecessarily the prices of essential commodities, they say road blockade and closing of the tunnel is the reason for skyrocketing of the prices. This is another major issue confronting valleyietes during winter period.
During winter it is difficult for students to go for tuition but in any way they have to manage because there are no other alternatives for them. In such a situation what a common man can do is only to prepare for this chilly winter and face its challenges.
Now if we talk about the employees they also face a lot of difficulties during winter and on snowfall days, especially those posted in far off and far-flung areas. They find it extremely difficult to reach their duties well in time and without getting bitter experiences. The blocked roads due to moderate and sometimes heavy snowfall pose a great threat to commuters and patients as they can’t be carried to hospitals in view of such harsh conditions and due to absence of public transport on valley roads.
For the employees of roads and buildings department and mechanical engineering department it becomes their moral duty to be fully geared and to remain alert to face the challenges. They clear the roads in this chilly winter as roads act as nerves for the business activities and are as important as nerves are to human body.
They clear the main roads first followed by the link roads so that everyone- means students reach tuition centers, patient reach to Hospital safely, and employees reach their offices. It is because of the efforts of these employees that our sufferings are mitigated to some extent as they work from dawn to dusk to clear the road.
For public health engineering department employees which has now been rechristened as Jal Shakti , winter season keeps them on toes because frozen faucets and icy water pipes feeding the households take days and sometimes weeks together to get restored in view of the freezing temperatures of the forty days harshest spell of chilliakalan.
Water crisis become a norm then and it compels our women folk to fetch water from nearby rivers, streams or wells. A practice which has been in our past but the harsh winter conditions force them to repeat the same. As we know that most of the water flowing through our water bodies is highly polluted and even the water obtained from the wells isn’t yielding good results after being tested in laboratories.
So consuming this water in our homes and using it for bathing and washing too can’t be encouraged. This is the basic reason Kashmiris experience multiple ailments during this season and medical practitioners see a heavy rush of patients and sometimes hospitals too deny beds to indoor patients in view of the overload and huge footfall of the patients.
Another winter woe faced by residents of valley is the frequent disruption of power supplies. Due to thin rivers during this season power generated from the power projects is much lesser than the demand which puts the people in further trouble. Further on snowfall days and sometimes due to heavy and gusty winds of the winter period, most of the power lines and poles get damaged due to which electricity remains disrupted for days together and our colorful life gets miserably halted as it takes much time and efforts to restore the electricity.
We have been facing this winter since time immemorial and our forefathers too were habitual of making strong preparations for the upcoming season to overcome the hardships which demands same level of preparations from us. Besides the civil administration at block, district and provincial level needs to be fully ready to redress the public grievances and mitigate the sufferings of common masses especially in these tough times.
(The writer is a columnist, academician and short story writer)