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Kashmir’s Harshest Chillai Kalan In Three Decades

This harshest winter in decades resulted in a host of problems for the local population, including increased rate of deaths from cardiac arrests.

Shopian, J&K

This year, when the 40-day harsh winter period called Chillai Kalan was over, the mercury broke the three-decade record of lowest temperature in the valley of Kashmir. The temperature in Srinagar dropped to minus 8.8 degrees Celsius which is the lowest since 1991.

As a matter of fact, the mercury dropped to -15 in some places like the southern Kashmir’s Shopian district.

“We have not seen this sort of extreme cold in Chillai Kalan in the last three decades. Roads were closed and water scarcity became a norm. It was unprecedented,” Ghulam Rasool, a local resident in Pulwama, said while speaking to Digpu News.

This harshest winter in decades resulted in a host of problems for the local population, including increased rate of deaths from cardiac arrests, worst water crisis, electricity outages, property damages due to heavy snowfall, road and highway closures and the resultant price hikes of essential commodities like vegetables.

People were left helpless, especially after the water supply pipes froze due to drastic fall in temperatures across the valley. The scarcity of potable water became the worst nightmare for the people this winter.

It was not just the common people, but the officials of PHE department also expressed their inability to ensure unhindered water supply because of the dramatic freezing cold. Also, the water tankers could not reach far-flung areas due to snow-filled roads, which remained uncleared for days together.

The week-long closure of Srinagar-Jammu National Highway after this year’s first snowfall became detrimental for the rising prices of essentials. People not only fought the bone-chilling cold, but also hoarding, black-marketing and the consequent price rise.

However, Ghulam Rasool, who is a vegetable seller, said, “As a consequence of closure of national highway, eatables like vegetables become expensive. I being a small vendor sell more vegetables when prices are lower, so authorities should not blame us. Instead, they need to look at the root cause and address it.”

Meanwhile, the officials from Food Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs (FCSCA) Department maintained that action was taken against violators. “The department also sealed shops and dozens of FIRs were registered against violators,” Director FCS&CA, Bashir Ahmed Khan, told the media.

The un-cleared snow on roads did not only hinder the movement of public and vehicles but also hit the essential services. Many residential houses were also damaged due to the heaviest snowfall in decades. In fact, several fire incidents took place in the month of January in different areas of the valley, which caused damage to private properties. The severity of damage could have been minimized if movement of fire tenders was not hampered by un-cleared snow.

Ghulam Mohiuddin, a shopkeeper in Pulwama, told Digpu News that many far-flung areas are still cut-off and made an appeal. “The authorities need to work for the relief of the people, as many roads in far-flung areas in Shopian district including interior lanes and by-lanes are filled with snow,” he said.

Another issue of concern was the alarming rate of deaths due to cardiac arrests in the valley. Many people lost their lives due to asphyxiation, while trying to warm themselves against freezing temperatures using gas and coal heaters.

Also, frequent power cuts took a toll on students while patients requiring oxygen concentrators were the worst affected.

Even when the government authorities claimed to press all its resources into service, it was no less than a nightmare for the local population on ground. In many incidents, officials had to face the ire of people for the loopholes in preparation, be it lack of snow clearing machines or other related issues.

However, people now hope for the temperatures to show an upward trend in the 20-day long Chillai Khurd (small cold) and 10-day-long Chillai Bachha (baby cold) in February, so that they could resume their daily life after the harsh spell of Chillai Kalan.

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This story is part of an exclusive series and it is not meant for reproduction.

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