Declaring snow-fall as state-specific natural calamity
In a move which will come as a relief to the people of snow-bound areas, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha Sunday declared the recent heavy snowfall as state-specific natural calamity under SDRF norms. Pertinently, ‘Heavy Snowfall’ was not figuring in the list of ‘Natural Calamities’ under SDRF norms, due to which disbursement of relief and ex-gratia for the damages due to heavy snowfall was not possible for the Districts’ Disaster Management Authorities. Due to declaration of ‘Heavy Snowfall’ as a ‘Natural Calamity’; processing of ex-gratia relief under SDRF will become faster, thereby giving a huge relief to the affected public of snow-bound areas. LG also sought a detailed report on issues and problems faced by the public due to heavy snowfall and future course of action of the administration at all levels to overcome the challenges thereof. The LG has also directed that 4×4 rescue vehicles and ambulances be kept handy in remote areas and areas having narrow lanes to help the people in need of medical assistance. He asked the officers to be more sensitive and responsive to the issues of the public and take requisite measures to minimize the difficulties of common people and stressed that need is to have more feet on the ground, quickly reach out to the people and address their needs and requirements. LG’s decision of declaring recent heavy snowfall as state-specific natural calamity under SDRF norms is appreciable and will go a long way in helping people. In 2019 when Kashmir had early snowfall, fruit and orchards worth millions of rupees got impacted. Because no such decision was made at that time, the victims could not be properly compensated. Now that LG has set the precedence, hopefully it will be followed in the future too.
While the Lt. Governor wants more feet on the ground to reach out to the effected people, fact of the matter is that the administration lacks both men and machinery and also vision to deal with winter challenges. Take, for instance, Srinagar city – here SMC employees have been tirelessly working to clear the roads and lanes but the lack of wherewithal has been hampering the operations. The bosses are just busy passing orders and feeding lies to their higher-ups. Be it the government employees who are busy on roads clearing the snow, patching transmission lines to restore power supply or unblocking the pipes to ensure water supply, they are the warriors doing wonderful job but those who should be leading them are missing from the except. Though there are some exceptions but most of the officers pass orders sitting in their cozy offices not caring to see what is happening on the ground. As for as the disruption of power supply during winters is concerned, the authorities have to chalk out a long-term plan. They need to think seriously about the laying of underground transmission lines and acquire more and more transformers to keep them handy for any contingency. For road clearance, the concerned departments need to have snow clearance machines in abundance and keep them ready for the operation. Unless the administration learns the lessons properly and devises its future policies keeping in view the failures of the past, every winter would continue to remain traumatic for the people of Kashmir. The snowfall, particularly the one during Chillai Kalan, is the life line of Kashmir as it helps make glaciers that are the source of water during summers. In this backdrop, Kashmiris should have been celebrating the snowfall but they are not and that is because the troubles that the snowfall brings with it are not addressed efficiently and effectively by the administration.