Normal life remained disrupted for the second consecutive day on Wednesday as authorities failed to clear roads and interior lanes, especially in Srinagar. Despite the Met office’s timely forecast of heavy snowfall across Kashmir, the administration woke up only too late, and that too to clear merely some main roads. People in several areas were given to understand that the administration had no money to run snow-clearing machines. Almost the entire valley plunged into darkness as transmission lines and poles snapped. Although authorities tried their best, power supply could not be restored in most parts till late Wednesday evening.
This is the time when the government must seriously consider the total replacement of the transmission and distribution system. It is faulty to the extent of collapsing even in a moderate snowfall. Replacing it would also avert loss of energy. The closure of the Jammu-Srinagar highway has added to the woes of the people because of acute shortage of vegetables and milk. There is no denying the fact that the snowfall was too heavy, and miracles cannot be expected from the administration, but the weather warning had come three days in advance. The administration, therefore, had ample time to rush stocks to the Valley and keep snow-clearing machines ready. Had the administration taken appropriate measures in time, many problems could have been minimized.
The state has an impotent disaster management cell, good only for issuing weather bulletins from time to time. It forgets that this is the job of the meteorological department which performs it with commendable competence. The recent snowfall has claimed fourteen lives across the state, and with avalanche warnings having already been issued, the toll God forbid, may go further. The administration and the disaster management cell must gear up now to handle any emergency.
Snowfall at this point of the season does not bode well for agriculture which still forms the backbone of the state’s economy. Experts must rush to farmers and growers with counsel and advice. The agricultural community will also need financial assistance.
This March snowfall should teach the government never to let its guard down with respect to weather, and put a response mechanism in place that can be scrambled at short notice.