Department badly in need of upgradation
BUDGAM: The Mechanical Engineering Department (MED) in the district has failed to expand its manpower and machinery required for snow clearance in line with the expanding road network.
Established in late 80s, the Mechanical Engineering Department in Budgam has 11 machines for snow clearance and the operators are mostly casual employees.
Officials said the department requires at least 20 machines and an equal number of operators for timely clearance of snow from roads.
The last major reinforcement in the department was done some three decades ago, when few machines were sanctioned for the department, they said
Assistant Executive Engineer, MED, Budgam, Reyaz Ahmad Mir told Kashmir Reader that the department was running short of machines and manpower.
“At present we have only 11 machines to clear snow for entire district, out of which one is exclusively for Airport Road. A few have got damaged. It (infrastructure) requires a little bit of reinforcement,” Mir said.
“I hope the concerned authorities will take note of it, and if so, we will be able to deliver our best in time and as per the requirements,” he said expressing hope that the government takes decision on reinforcing the department.
He said that most of the areas in Budgam receive heavy snowfall, “be it tourist destinations like Dodpathri, Yousmarg and Tosamaidan or other high reaches like Arizal, Khag, Pakerpora, Khansahab, Poshker”.
With the present resources, Mir said, they are not able to manage the workload in time “because of the extended road network, pathetic state of roads and dearth of mechanic resources”.
“At times we are made to defer the operations for particular route because of emergencies, that makes other people suffer and occasionally becomes a reason for public outcry,” Mir said. “To tackle emergencies, there must be additional machinery and manpower, but unfortunately we don’t have that”.
Irregular road surfaces and confusion about jurisdiction with other departments (Road and Buildings, and PMGSY) are other issues compounding the situation.
“Even though there is no bifurcation or trifurcation but there still remains confusion with the departments,” Mir said.
As per the current action plan, the MED is supposed to clear snow from 1065 kilometres of road, but on ground, the reality is different and “we have to clear around 2000 kilometres”.
“We clear snow exclusively from the main roads and the roads at the tail ends also come in our jurisdiction. But to reach at the tail end we are made to clear each and every road that comes in between, and we are not getting a single penny for that,” Mir explained.
He said that a machine can clear 70 to 80 kilometers of road in case of light snow, “but this snow was heavy and one machine could clear only 25-30 kilometers a day”.
He asserts that if the department has one machine per hundred kilometers, they will clear the snow in night operations alone.
Mohammad Akber Lone, a machine operator, describes snow clearance as a daunting task.
Lone, his three colleagues in the department while their fellow operators are working as casual labourers for a salary of Rs 6,000 per month.
“If it snows in the morning, we visit the spots at the same time. And if it snows at night, we start work at 3 or 4am,” Lone said.
He said that there are several obstacles that hamper the snow clearance, apart from breakdown of machines due to bumpy potholed roads.
When it starts snowing, the team of engineers at the department devise route maps, a copy of which is handed over to operators, Mir said.
“And in case, we meet with any emergency, accident or break down, we intimate our office,” he said.
The machines are made for a certain capacity, but, Mir said, the machines are sometimes worked beyond capacity leading to breakdown.
“For example the snow falling from rooftops onto roads exceeds ten to twelve feet in most of the villages and has no space to displace it, causing immense difficulties to operators. There must be a blanket ban on this menace,” Lone said.
One more problem is the use of earth movers (locally known as JCBs), which must be entirely banned, said Shabir Ahmad Mistry, a Junior Engineer with the department.
“In summers the R&B department spent a huge amount on macadamisation of roads but in winters they ruin them of their own by pressing JCBs on job,” Mistry said.
“JCBs plough the roads and disintegrate macadam at most of the places,” he explained while suggesting a ban on their use. “Instead there is need to reinforce the MED to deliver its best,” he said.
The department officials requested Governor Satya Pal Malik to take note of the issues confronting the department and intervene to upgrade the resources of the department on priority.