Every season in Kashmir is enchanting and has its unique charm; winter is no different in bestowing Kashmir with magnificence, charm and beauty. However winters are severe, harsh and bring lot of miseries for the people of Kashmir. Poor and under prevelaged are the worst hit by the harsh winters in this under developed state. Inadequate facilities poor infrastructure and corrupt and indifferent administration adds a lot to these unending hardships and miseries.
Kashmir has been experiencing good snowfall, instrumental in recharging its water resources and mentaining its unique status of beautiful hilly area with lot of gushing streams, bubbling springs, dense forests and lush green meadows. However last many years had shown a considerable change in climate and ultimate decline in the snowfall. There are several factors responsible for all this change on climatic front. One of the main reasons could be the over enthusiasm of man for development, which lead to tampering and interference with nature, natural resources and its well-balanced systems. Kashmir was loosing its sheen and beauty due to shortage of snow and ultimately depletion of its water resources.
The recent heavy snowfall witnessed after many years, which seems unprecedented otherwise, was a routine in Kashmir. Earlier plains of the valley had several feet of snow during winter and the hill would get enough snow to recharge the water sources through out the year. The heavy snowfall caught the people and the administration unaware; the whole life came to stand still. It was share ignorance of people about the ecosystem of Kashmir, which made them to suffer. Kashmiris had forgotten the severity of winter and the miseries it used to get with it. As we have forgotten our past, culture, heritage, language under the garb of modernization, so was the case with our experience with winters and hardships inflicted by it. Teenagers might not be aware of the harsh winters but majority of populace knows that life used to be hard in Kashmir on the onset of winter. Storing of essential commodities for survival was a must. Working hard for major portion of the year and storing essential commodities for the winters was key for survival during hard, chilly and virtually lifeless but beautiful months of winter. The architecture, living style and dress was apt to the climatic conditions of the valley.
During present crisis after the heavy and untimely snowfall government failed on all fronts but we, as people are equally responsible for the failure of the system and the ultimate colossal damages. Government is duty bond to provide all sort of assistance and help to its subjects but as the adage goes that ‘God helps those who help themselves’. People here have ignored nature and forgotten its fury. Government can initiate rescue measures and carry damage control operations at the time of any crisis and calamity but can not fight against nature. In our sick society selfishness have replaced altruistic motives and benevolence is now a bygone trait Snow avalanches and other miseries of cruel winter was a common affair in Kashmir but promptness, preparedness and will of the people had always contained the adversaries and damages inflicted by the winter. Snow avalanches and pulverization of man and property is a common affair in the Gurez, Keran, Machil areas of Kashmir, Marwah and Wadwan areas of Jammu region and several parts of Ladakh region, even when Kashmir was experiencing low snow fall. Earlier the design and architecture of houses in avalanche prone areas was strong and solid enough and could with stand any onslaught of extremes of weather, but now we find lot of deviation from the age old, time tested traditional construction. Forests the natural barriers against snow avalanches are no more around the habitations as the mankind has put his axe of greed on these groves. The problem with us is we misinterpret development. Development is not deviation from age old traditions, culture, heritage which govern our safety, welfare and preserve our identity but development is the process to excel in all fields of life in tandem with modern technology while taking utmost care of culture, tradition and heritage.
The government and its apparatus had become ignorant about the realities of weather in Kashmir and were caught on the wrong foot by the recent snowfall. The institutions and instruments of governance during these years did not bother to go through the earlier records and had shown complete indifference towards the prospects of harsh winters in Kashmir and any eventuality cropping out of it. As we know government is the mirror image of its subjects, it thinks and behaves the way its people think and behave. Corrupt and ignorant societies always get corrupt and ignorant governments. So is the case in Kashmir. This present adverse situation had exposed the government and the cracks within its system. The government’s achievements on infrastructure front and progress reports of its development proved to be paper tigers. The much-talked about stock position proved to be the bank balance of an insolvent. The only field of administration, which was hyper active, was its misinformation wing, dolling out bundles of wrong and misleading information for the traumatized people to delude and confuse them further. The crisis management can not be operated from cozy offices and guesthouses but it needs the managers to be in the middle of the crisis. The government was not ill equipped but its lack of dedication; swiftness had its toll. Two decades earlier when the heavy snow was a routine the administration had just few snow clearance machines, the rest was done manually, and it was all done with dedication. Now the fleet of these machines had swelled to many scores and the road length is almost same, but what government lacks now are zeal, zest, dedication and swiftness. Task force, control room and disaster management are the buzz words in the corridors of administration but on ground there is no control or room; task or force; or any sort of management but only disaster on every front. The syndromes of sycophancy and dishonesty has played havoc with the efficiency of administration, and deprived the system of governance of its cohesion and synergy. We should not blame chief minister Mufti Mohammed Syeed for the failure and collapse, for that matter any leadership at the helm of affairs would have proved a failure, as it is not the leadership, but the system of governance that has failed and collapsed. However an able and efficient leadership minimizes the damages and activates a proper disaster management mechanism in shortest possible time.
The devastation by the recent heavy snowfall is a calamity out of nature’s fury compounded by our own ignorance and failure of system of governance. The death and destruction caused by the snow and callous attitude of the administration is an eye opener for both people and the authorities. The corrupt political system has started exploiting this incident and the plight of victims to get political mileage out of it and brow beat their opponents. I hope better sense will prevail with all of us and we will stop interfering with nature and its process and stick to our age-old traditions and methods of survival in tandem with modern technology, and will shun materialism and selfishness altogether. This can help to avert such tragedies or at least minimize the damages and sufferings.