The death cycle at Jawahar Tunnel continues


A natural disaster accentuated by human failure 

Shahbaz Sidiquee

Srinagar, Feb 25(KNB): An entrance to Kashmir ____ Jawahar Tunnel, along the 270-km highway received heavy snowfall in the first week of February. It is the month which marks the end of Chil-ia-kalaan; a period of harsh weather in the valley. From the beginning of February every Kashmiri was desperately trying to escape from the unprecedented fury of the snowfall. But Valley witnessed heavy snowfall in the first week of February, which was earlier predicted by the department of Metrology. Entire valley was drenched in snow and single road which connects Kashmir valley with rest of India was closed for the traffic and Kashmir Valley got disconnected. Within no time traffic as well as people were absent from the roads and everyone was hastened in order to reach home and stay inside.

People were continuously watching outside their homes as entire day i.e., 7th of February was snowing very heavily, they were curiously watching the heights of snowfall which was pouring down. As evening approached people tuned their radios and TV sets so as to know the weather updates but a horrific news came that an avalanche has hit Jawahar tunnel and police personal posted there were buried under that avalanche. All become numb and stagnant when they came to know about that horrendous news. The fearful avalanche has hit the north portal of Jawahar Tunnel on the Qazigund side. It was believed that ten people got inhumed in that avalanche. The ferocity and extent of the tragedy numbed the people.

Entire valley was in deep shock particularly the families of those whose members were posted there. All took their cell phones and begin to make contact with their kith and kins. Some were safe while some were buried in that avalanche, it was so horrid that one can’t have dreamed of. As some had make conversations with them few minutes while and some were waiting for their return. It was all of a sudden that snow avalanche hit those posts and everyone was in grim and agony. “As I heard the news of snow avalanche I got stuck at one position, fear and sadness was mounting with every passing second as my son Arshid Gull was posted there. Snow was in abundance and roads were closed which added more problems, un-ending hours of night were further making us restless,” said father of Arshid Gull.

“Snow avalanches of minimum intensities begin to hit the Jawahar tunnel around 03:30pm but there wasn’t any major impact of those avalanches and were far away from those residential quarters. Upto 6pm three to four avalanches came but no severe damage got done, but after that a powerful avalanche hit the police post around 06:29pm which was of full intensity and severely damaged the quarters where police personnel were residing,” says a policeman who was also posted at Jawahar tunnel that evening when a dreadful snow avalanche buried more than ten people.

Gap holes in the administration’s preparedness.

State administration never ever noticed the fear of snow or those strong winds which usually prevail over that area. Why those police personnel were supposed to be in those weak quarters, whose roof tops were of tin and ply. Despite being aware that sometimes snow heaps take the height of those quarters. In the past the said tunnel had engulfed so many lives but administration always remained in slumber and make people vulnerable to harsh weather conditions. Where they don’t have any option left else than to give away their lives.  Whom to held responsible? Nature or Administration; as Snow avalanche engulfed eight more people at Jawahar tunnel.
Why administration always bury this truth that people who used to be posted there have also their families, they have sisters who used to wait eagerly for safe return, their mothers used to pray from dawn to dusk for their safety. They usually do numbering of days on their fingers which their sons spend in risky locations, their fathers bow their heads with moist eyes before Almighty for their safeguard. How can our state government be so negligent?

“We were inside the tunnel whose both tubes were blocked, cell phones were running out of battery and fear of death was adhering throughout that deadly night. Our eyes budge out and body was deeply shivered with the fear that was produced by that avalanche, which drenched our colleagues who were with us few minutes back,” said policemen who were locked down inside the diversion tunnel of Jawahar Tunnel.

It took 14 hours for state administration to reach and start rescue operation. Why snow clearing machines were deployed so late? A question which comes to everyone’s mind. Unavailability of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) at such vulnerable location was a big failure of the state administration. Rescue operation came into effect very late, administration was already made aware about heavy snowfall by the Metrology department but despite of this thing they even didn’t deployed snow clearing machines that evening so as to carry rescue operation. Even local people arrived much earlier than the government forces with their primitive tools and begin to delve the snow. This is not the first time that this area had engulfed people but this happened several times in the past as well were people lost their lives because of the negligence of government. State administration being in deep slumber makes police personal as well as common people exposed to vulnerable conditions where fear of death becomes prominent in winters.

Amid the face-freezing misery, one phenomenon that is a staple of this winter has drawn greater attention in an era of prolific social media use: snow avalanche engulfing eight bodies. Twitter and Facebook users shared video footage of that rescue operation but failed to deliver the truth behind that horrific incident. Where administration completely failed and coffins arrived at doors of those police personnel’s.

The writer Studied International Relations (Peace and Conflict Studies) IUST

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