Srinagar: With Jammu and Kashmir witnessing unprecedented political developments this year, it’s only natural that the Valley’s first snowfall of the season was hit by it.
Heavy snowfall throughout last week blocked arterial roads and highways, plunged much of the Valley into darkness and cut off upper reaches of the region.
It also found the new Union Territory administration wanting, leading to outrage on the streets over the “complete breakdown” of the civil machinery.
“A lot of things changed with the scrapping of Article 370 but not the abject incompetence of the civil administration,” said Tajamul Ahmed, a local businessman at Lal Chowk. “On previous occasions, there was an elected government to fail us so we would direct our ire at known politicians and public faces. With all of them in jail, who should we blame now?”
The new J&K UT administration, led by Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu, took charge on 31 October.
Administration under fire
Heavy rains lashed the Valley late Wednesday evening followed by snowfall. The situation considerably deteriorated by Thursday morning with parts of Kashmir receiving unprecedented snowfall. While Srinagar received a feet of snow, southern and northern parts of the region received somewhere between two and four feet of snowfall.
Heavy snowfall continued throughout Thursday blocking all arterial roads and highways. That led to the administration coming under fire. Traditionally, the snow clearance units of J&K civil administration begin work as as soon as snow starts to accumulate on the streets. The units first clear out the highways and other arterial roads before eventually moving into the streets and bylanes.
This year, they were missing Thursday, resulting in the upper reaches of the Valley getting cut off from the rest of the region. It was only on Friday morning that the snow-clearing units started work.
The snowfall also caused road accidents that left nine people, including two Army personnel, dead.
Power supply hit
Among the first casualties of the snowfall was power supply, which has been erratic since the weather turned adverse.
While multiple power cuts were witnessed across Kashmir Wednesday, there had been no electricity in the Valley Thursday since early morning. Electricity was restored in parts of Srinagar by Friday night but the rest of the Valley continued to be in darkness.
Srinagar Deputy Commissioner Shahid Iqbal Choudhary said power supply was affected in many areas because trees fell on the overhead cables.
“…but by the second day, we were able to restore electricity in 95 per cent of Srinagar,” he claimed, adding, “We did not discriminate between so-called VIP areas and other localities.”
The lack of power hit normal life further in Kashmir.
Officials at Srinagar’s premier SMHS hospital said they ran the facility on kerosene generators that usually serve as backup, and were not able to discharge patients on Thursday. They, however, added that the hospital has been running smoothly.
The snowfall also prevented patients from reaching the hospital.
“My brother had been feeling unwell since Wednesday night, with discomfort in the chest but we couldn’t get an ambulance to come to our home,” said a local resident. “Luckily, nothing untoward happened. We brought him in an auto the first thing Thursday morning.”
Choudhary, meanwhile, said the snowfall was unprecedented but the administration is “effectively managing the situation”.
“One employee of Srinagar Municipal Corporation was killed and 17 others were injured during snow clearance. We still managed to clear the snow in best possible time. By 24 hours, all the roads were cleared of snow,” he said.
Transport sector among worst hit
Transport remains suspended in most parts of the Valley. In areas of Srinagar where vehicles attempted to ply, the roads ended up witnessing massive traffic jams that choked the city.
“I had to go towards Downtown from my home in Jawahar Nagar, Lal Chowk, which must be 2-3 kms from my home,” said Dr Mehraj, a local resident. “It usually is a five-minute drive but it took me around two hours Friday.”
Truck drivers, both from the state and outside, have been stuck on the national highway with most of them ill equipped for the weather. “I don’t know how Kashmiri people stay here. The night was cold and dreadful,” Rajiv Singh, a truck driver from Punjab, said Saturday. He was supposed to leave Kashmir Wednesday night.
Air travel was equally hit with no flights entering or leaving Srinagar for three consecutive days starting Wednesday. The inconvenience of stranded passengers in Srinagar was amplified further owing due to the blockade of internet and SMS services.
“The flight management didn’t or couldn’t inform us that our flights had been cancelled. I found about my flight being cancelled only when I managed to reach the airport amid this snowfall. The apathy by the administration is unparalleled,” said a woman passenger on her way back from Srinagar airport. She was supposed to catch Friday’s flight to New Delhi.
Airport officials told ThePrint said that they had managed to clear the runway but poor visibility prevented flights from taking off or landing.
The operations resumed after the weather imported.