Javaid Beigh

Covid-19: Kashmir’s unfolding disaster

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The dense and compact population coupled with the confined topography of Kashmir valley makes it a potential hot spot like north Italy and New York, with nearly similar climatic conditions.

The Covid-19 pandemic in Kashmir valley is taking a turn for the worst and yet there seems to be no acknowledgement of the same in the national media as well as next to no realization among the people of Kashmir valley. While, most national media news channels are focused on cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and bigger states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu etc., smaller states and union territories like Jammu & Kashmir with much more serious and gigantic problem of exponentially exploding cases of Corona Virus and ever increasing number of related deaths are unfortunately given lesser coverage. The gravity of the threat posed by the Corona Virus pandemic in the UT of J&K is amplified by the presence of a disproportionately large number of infections in a smaller pool of population, especially in a compact and densely populated Kashmir valley and yet the problem finds no mention in national media and even lesser acknowledgement among Kashmiri masses.

Let us first try to understand the seriousness and gravity of the problem created by the Covid-19 pandemic in the UT of J&K, especially in Kashmir valley. Within the UT of J&K, the situation is particularly grim in Kashmir valley, which accounts for nearly 80% of all cumulative Corona Virus positive cases (over 8000 cases out of a J&K’s total of 10,000 Corona Virus positive cases as on July 11, 2020) and nearly 90% of all deaths (154 out of 171 deaths as on July 11, 2020).  The Jammu province is comparatively doing better in controlling the spread of Corona Virus in comparison to Kashmir valley as it comprises of only 20% of the total case load and only 10% of total deaths related to Corona Virus within the UT of J&K.

The gravity of the Corona Virus pandemic problem is further compounded by the fact that for a population of merely 8 million people in Kashmir valley, there are over 10,000 Corona Virus positive cases. To put things in perspective, the state of Uttar Pradesh with a population of nearly 22 crore people (nearly 29 times more populous than Kashmir valley), there were 24,000 Corona Virus positive cases and nearly 700 related deaths on 1st July, 2020. The fact that Kashmir valley is a densely populated enclave surrounded by high mountains makes it even more compact of a region for the quick and rapid spread of Covid 19 virus. Within the Kashmir valley, four districts of South Kashmir – Pulwama, Anantnag, Shopian & Kulgam are undoubtedly, the burning hot spots of the rapid spread of Corona Virus in Kashmir valley. These four districts of South Kashmir account for nearly 47% of all cumulative Corona Virus positive cases and 35% of all related deaths within Kashmir valley as on 1st July, 2020.

Yet, it is surprising that despite such grim state of affairs, the fast deteriorating Corona pandemic situation in Kashmir valley does not find any mention in dailies, news reports and articles of national media. The Kashmir valley is sitting on an epidemic time bomb, which is fast approaching the levels, where things will go totally out of control and will lead to a complete collapse of an already over burdened health infrastructure of Kashmir valley. The dense and compact population coupled with the confined topography of Kashmir valley makes it a potential hot spot like north Italy and New York, with nearly similar climatic conditions. It does not help that South Kashmir in addition remains an epicenter of ongoing security operations that further complicates the control of an unprecedented medical and health emergency like Corona Virus pandemic.

An already bad situation is further made worst by rather casual and nonchalant behavior of Kashmiri masses, which is further alleviating the fears of Corona Virus going haywire in coming days and weeks in Kashmir valley. As if the situation was not bad enough due to indiscipline of Kashmiri masses, who by and large ignore all mandated guidelines of health department including maintaining social distancing and wearing masks, the situation is further made worst by innumerable “conspiracy theories” that are circulating among gullible masses of Kashmir valley, especially in rural areas. It is appalling to see a large number of Kashmiri people dismissing the entire epidemic as “drama”. The fact is that most people who die of Covid 19 actually die of medical complications arising out of cardiac arrest, kidney and other multi organ failure, which are triggered by the Corona Virus infection, that makes these underlying diseases and comorbidities like hypertension and diabetes even worst. A patient may technically die of another other life-threatening disease but it is the infection of Corona Virus and its catastrophic impact on respiratory system that aggravates other underlying diseases and comorbidities. So, there is no “drama” in these deaths.

The widespread death and destruction caused by Corona Virus pandemic is a global reality, which has impacted all nations and communities, whether rich or poor and Muslim or non-Muslim. Therefore, to dismiss the dangers posed by the Corona Virus as a “conspiracy” against Muslims or Islam is also unfounded.

In Kashmir valley, Corona Virus pandemic has affected vast and varied section of population including children, large number of pregnant women and a sizable section of serving members of security forces. No one has been spared from its devastating clutches and hence more than ever before, today is an urgent need for government and administrative authorities to further escalate their preparations to fight the pandemic and the national media must also highlight the dangers that the pandemic poses for the people of Kashmir. Last, but not the least, the people of Kashmir must change their thinking and approach in dealing with this medical crisis in a rational and scientific way and follow all advised protocol to limit its spread. It is a joint effort on our part that will defeat this deadly virus, otherwise we may be looking at a grim future.

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