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Weak disaster response capability exposed.

Jammu and Kashmir’s disaster management capability was found grossly inadequate with a delayed and sloppy response by authorities in the face of a few inches of snowfall on Saturday.

Snow clearance and restoration of widely hit electricity supply brought to attention the question that if two inches of snow can lead to such a disaster-like situation, is the state really prepared for a possible real disaster.   Several commuters told Greater Kashmir that absence of men and machinery on vital roads such as those leading to hospitals led to bumper-to-bumper traffic, especially on Saturday evening.

As snowing intensified in the afternoon on Saturday, various departments and government agencies responsible for delivery of essential services, particularly power and transport, were found invisible on the ground. Most of the roads in Srinagar leading to the city centreLalChowk were completely inundated and passenger vehicles were seen moving bumper-to-bumper navigating the waterlogged streets.

The movement of traffic was badly hit on the roads connecting district headquarters with Srinagar city and the students whose examination ended by 5pm could reach their homes only in late evening hours.

The examiners were seen waiting in queues up till 9pm outside Bemina Board Office for dropping off answer sheets and collecting question papers for the next papers. Many of the aggrieved teachers said they could reach their homes only by mid-night and wanted the exams be rescheduled keeping in view more difficult times ahead in the winter.

Aamir Ali, Director, Disaster Management, J&K said although snowfall was not a part of disaster management policy but State Disaster Response Force personnel were pressed into service for cutting felled trees on transmission lines in order to help Power Development Department  restore supply across the Valley.  “Manpower crunch for SDRF is a reason why this force cannot be used in times of inclement weather across the state. It is an aspect which is being looked into now,” Ali said.

“The two battalions in state of SDRF has 2000 personnel in 22 districts and in case of rescue work after the snowfall  batches  of 35-40 SDRF personnel were deployed to respond across the Valley.”

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