Baramulla, Oct 20: With the early onset of winter, residents of the north Kashmir’s border areas along the line of Control (LoC), preparations by stocking their homes with canned goods, dried vegetables, and firewood or coal as the heavy snowfall disconnects them from the rest of the valley every winter, they are left contemplating their fate during the cold months ahead.
Keran and Machhal, nestled along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kupwara district, offer picturesque landscapes, while Gurez, a valley encircled by snow-capped mountains, lies in Bandipora district, and Uri town is situated amid the hills of Baramulla.
The locals said that as the mercury drops with each passing day heralding the onset of the chilling winter, and with a decline in the number of tourists, residents in these areas are now gearing up for the harsh winter ahead, a time that feels akin to being trapped in their homes due to heavy snowfall.
The locals said that obtaining essential services during the winter months is of utmost importance because fresh vegetables, transportation services, and proper healthcare facilities are scarce on snowy days.
“In order to confront these challenges, the local residents are currently occupied with preserving essential items, such as dried vegetables and beekeeping, which are frequently used during the winter season,” they said.
Many local farmers are busy preserving potatoes through an age-old technique to ensure food during harsh winters.
Mohammad Rizwan, a Karnah resident, expressed, “When the roads are blocked due to heavy snowfall, our foremost worry is how to manage if someone falls ill here. It’s easy to discuss, but the hardships we endure are truly beyond anyone’s comprehension.”
“Each one of us needs to maintain a substantial supply of firewood and essential food items, including rice, oil, and dried vegetables. These provisions sustain us during the winter when our region becomes buried under several feet of snow, leaving us isolated from the rest of the valley,” Mukhtar khan en elderly resident from Tangdar said.
Jabeeena, a diligent housewife, gears up for her household’s winter preparations. She initiates the process with “wande safai,” a meticulous cleaning of the house to welcome the colder months. Before introducing winter furnishings, she ensures that multiple layers of blankets are discreetly placed beneath the carpets to shield against the chill seeping up from the cemented floor.
The age-old tradition of preparing dried vegetables for Kashmir’s winters has been an integral part of the local culture for decades. Instead of relying on market purchases, many people begin this process during the summer months, and for some, it serves as a valuable source of income. Jabeeena highlights, “When vegetable prices surge, I turn to making dried vegetables. They are a trusted remedy to combat the winter’s cold, flu, and cough. After all, what are winters without the comfort of dried vegetables?” she said.
Mohammad Ramzan, a resident of Tulail, finds it challenging to put into words the dire situation that unfolds when the roads become blocked due to heavy snowfall. “Sick individuals and pregnant women bear the brunt of these circumstances,” he said.
Khan is hopeful that this year the roads will remain open in these areas, saying that the government to pay greater attention to these regions, taking into account the hardships faced by the local residents.
Abdul Ahad, another resident, stressed that the border communities long for improved road connectivity during the winter months. He believes that the government should prioritize these areas and ensure the opening of these vital roads.
He suggested that the government should initiate border tourism projects in the northern border areas of Kashmir. This approach would not only enhance connectivity between these regions and the rest of the valley but also boost winter tourism in these areas.
On the instructions of Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, the Kupwara district administration is preparing to send senior officials to border villages, where they will stay overnight for a ground assessment of challenges and opportunities. This initiative aims to improve governance in these areas and alleviate the hardships faced by residents, particularly during the winter months when they often lose road connectivity due to heavy snow.
Deputy Commissioner Ayushi Sudan has confirmed that the administration is actively working on the schedule for this initiative.
Similar initiatives are being considered in Bandipora and Baramulla districts, where the administration is contemplating sending its senior officials to these remote border areas to address grievances before the arrival of heavy snowfall.