A few inches of snowfall on Saturday led to breakdown of services in Kashmir, exposing major chinks in winter preparedness by Governor’s administration which shifted base to Jammu recently as part of the bi-annual Darbar move.From power supply to road traffic management, systems went for a toss to the extent that essential services like hospitals in the summer capital Srinagar had to bear the brunt of apathy.
Governor Satya Pal Malik started his inning in Jammu and Kashmir on promises of good governance, and re-establishment of winter secretariat the capital city was seen as a step in this direction as the administration moved to the warm climes of Jammu for six months.
But Saturday’s collapse of the services once again proved that the state administration believes in reacting to a situation rather than preparing for it.
The meteorological department had given enough warning and time by forecasting rain and snowfall more than 10 days in advance.
But except for some “photo-op moments” not a single meaningful meeting was held to review preparedness in detail for dealing with Saturday like situation even as weather changed abruptly from Thursday evening.
Even then it might have proven an act to little too late given the scale of the collapse of services.
Facing criticism and loss of face, the entire state machinery has now gone into an overdrive holding meetings to issue statements the information department, the government’s mouthpiece, directing restoration of badly hit electricity supply.Such huddles tend to make things worse and delay attention to urgent work on the ground.
The post facto exercise is often seen as a hurdle in restoration efforts as heads of the departments and their immediate juniors are required to remain present in such meeting to brief their bosses at the cost of restoration works. Since Saturday, administrative secretary of PDD and divisional commissioner Kashmir have revised their own deadlines on power restoration at least twice.
The commercial hub of Srinagar city, LalChowk, was without electricity for more than 30 hours, not to talk of villages and far flung areas.The power department has earned praise for its non-stop work for restoring the entire transmission system which had got severely affected by falling of trees on the lines.
Could the situation be avoided by acting in time? The department gets annual maintenance grants, a part of which goes for pruning and cutting of trees along the transmission lines across the Kashmir valley.
If taken care of adequately, more than 70 percent of the faults that occurred on Saturday could have been avoided, said at least five officials of the department separately told. One of the officials however said the transmission system suffered a “major brunt” in south Kashmir where some HT towers collapsed with heavy snow.
Ever since the civil secretariat moved to Jammu, a major portion of contingent of traffic police has disappeared from the city roads. With every passing day the traffic mess is growing into a nightmare for commuters across the city’s key junctions. The helplessness of commuters stuck in endless traffic snarls across Srinagar on Saturday has became a testimony to state apathy.
And, pictures of policemen moving along some city roads with shovels and wearing life vests became a big joke on social media, further angering many.
“The winter is yet to arrive…few inches of snowfall that left administration gasping should serve as a wakeup call for the government,” said a senior official. “It is right time that government gets its act together to ensure people have a sigh of relief at least this winter.”