Long dry spell of winter had begun to become worrisome for the people in the entire northern part of the country including J&K. Farmers in the State feared that if rains failed it might lead to draught. In our country life is closely dependent on conducive weather conditions. This is despite the fact that we have big rivers with perennial flow of water. However, by and large, nature has been sympathetic to us more often than not. Till January 6, the winter was rather mild throughout the State, which though enjoyable for ordinary people did not bring much happiness to the farmers and horticulturists.
But then the weather suddenly changed and as a result of disturbances in the west climatic conditions as reported by the weatherman, rains and snow came with a bang and during the night of January 6 entire northern part of the country lay in the grip of harsh winter. The temperature in the Valley fell below zero in the plains but Gulmarg with night temperature falling as low as minus 6.5 witnessed the coldest night in the Valley. For four consecutive days the Valley witnessed intermittent snowfall with 3-5 feet at Jawahar tunnel and 1.5 feet at Patnitop in Jammu region. Traffic authorities stopped downward traffic at Qazigund and Lower Munda and upward traffic at Nagrota. The landslides blocked the National Highway between Banihal and Ramban at two or three places and hundreds of vehicles and trucks were stranded along the National Highway.
The snow on the runway of Srinagar airport had not been cleared and this besides the inclement weather conditions forced suspension of flights to Srinagar. Kashmir remained cut off from the rest of the world owing to heavy snowfall and rains which were torrential in upper reaches and moderate in Jammu region. Trikuta Hills, where Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine is situated also had the first snowfall of the winter. Chenab valley has also experienced moderate to heavy snowfall causing suspension of traffic on Batote-Kishtwar and Batote – Bhaderwah roads. Bhaderwah heights have also received heavy snowfall and Bhaderwah-Chamba road is also blocked. However, the snowfall that has come to some parts of Bhaderwah-Chamba region after more than two years also brought cheer to the people with mountain tops full of snow and thus promising water in streams when it begins to melt in summer. Srinagar-Leh road is normally closed in November as the season for snowfall approaches. But Leh has also witnessed nearly a foot of snow and temperature has fallen considerably to -6 degrees Celsius.
As a result of heavy snowfall in the Valley power supply has been disrupted and the entire Valley has plunged into darkness. Snow has not been cleared from the roads and internal traffic also remains suspended in the Valley. It is very strange that the Government has been caught unawares because there was no sign of arrangement made by the Government to meet exigency on weather count. Normally, PWD engages contractors for snow clearance to open roads for normal traffic. For two days there has not been any sign of road clearance and this shows that authorities of PWD have failed to take their job seriously. There is no question of taking risks about winter’s harshness in entire J&K State. It is true that we do not have heavy snowfalls now as we used to have three or four decades ago the reason being large scale deforestation. But the vagaries of weather sometimes defy the logic that we employ for defining the moods of nature.
Even numerous parts of Jammu remained without power for two days. It is reported that there is hardly any understanding and cooperation between PDD and IRCON Ltd. the company that has been assigned the task of improving position of power supply in the State. Although the Union Ministry of Power provides funding to meet the cost of improved supply of power yet the agencies have failed to deliver the goods. We regret to say that PDD and IRCON Ltd. have failed to give a proof of their concern and care for the people of the State. The inclement weather has proved that the Government was not prepared in advance to meet a situation that can arise of uncertain weather conditions. The weatherman had been warning in good time that there is likelihood of heavy rains and snow. In view of strategic importance of our main roads such as Jammu-Srinagar-Leh, Jammu-Doda-Kishtwar, Jammu-Rajouri-Poonch, and also the Mughal Road, road clearance arrangements have to be made in advance. The Government should have alerted all concerned departments to be prepared to meet any eventuality. This should be a lesson for the future.