Jana Begum, 65 hailing from the remote Mamat village of Budgam district, 20 kilometres away from Srinagar died suddenly on January 16. This came at a time when the Kashmir valley was witnessing the harshest winter in decades bringing human and vehicular movement to a near standstill. There were apprehensions among Jana's family members regarding the delay in Jana Begum's burial since the snow was still accumulating on roads and there was no way they could get to the graveyard.
"Jana Begum was our neighbour and she passed away suddenly. We had to carry her body to the graveyard which is 1 kilometre away from her house while walking in the snow. As the snow was still falling, we called the Mechanical Engineering department (MeD) and at once they sent their men and machinery to the site for snow-clearance purposes so that we could go ahead with performing her last rites," a neighbour of the deceased told International Business Times, India.
"Although, we do not live very far from the city centre, earlier it would take three days for the administration to clear the roads. The change is now happening as the concerned department employees do act swiftly especially under emergency situations," he added.
Junior Engineer, Shabir Ahmad who was overseeing the snow clearance operations in the area told International Business Times, India that it has become their daily routine to help people reach out in case medical emergencies, provide food supplies, drive the pregnant women and terminally-ill patients to hospitals. He also added that besides this the men at the MeD perform their regular snow-clearance operations.
The Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar, Syed Abid Rasheed posted a picture of Mehrajudin Ganaie, who was driving a snow clearance machine and had a narrow escape on the job.
While we criticise in the aftermath of snow,here's a picture of the challenges operators & drivers face in clearance. At Astanpora today Mehrajuddin Ganie Operator Snow Cat 12 had a narrow escape. As a society we must pay our respects to them for doing a great job for all of us. pic.twitter.com/3nmUxhr6OE
— Syed Abid Rasheed Shah (@SyedAbidShah) January 16, 2019
Former Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah called the employees unsung heroes of Kashmir who help clean the roads and repair electricity. "I'm glad he escaped unscathed. The men who keep our roads open in the snowy conditions are indeed the unsung heroes of winter in Kashmir along with the power department linesmen who restore our electricity when the lines come down." Omar tweeted.
I'm glad he escaped unscathed. The men who keep our roads open in the snowy conditions are indeed the unsung heroes of winter in Kashmir along with the power department linesmen who restore our electricity when the lines come down. https://t.co/rmx3cvg1ov — Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) January 17, 2019
As the valley is gearing for another week of heavy snowfall, the engineers at MeD are again devising route maps for snow clearance operations, which begin at 3 am in the morning and finishes by 9 am to allow smooth pedestrian and vehicular movement.
Engineer Abdul Rasheed Bhat who is in-charge of the snow-clearance operations in Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal districts of Central Kashmir said that the department has procured new "Cat machines" which are highly effective in clearing snow off the narrow roads.
"Our mode of working is that we first let the snow accumulate on roads and when there is sufficient snow, our men get to work in the wee morning hours when there is no movement on the roads and clear the roads," Rasheed said.
He added that there are life-risking dangers involved in the process as the men work under freezing temperatures with little to no mobile connectivity and sometimes may die due to road mishaps.
But, the department is on its job and has upgraded its workforce and machinery to help people cope with the harsh winters.