The winter woes

The problem at an aggregate level starts with the lack of electricity
The winter woes
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No person reading these lines is unfamiliar with the harsh climatic conditions that have already begun crossing our ways this winter. The news related to deaths - one, two or even more – due to harsh winters are awaiting the pages of newspapers. Despite the passing of all these years the situation is still unchanged in the region. No steady measure exists that takes care of the homeless. The poor suffer in another harsh manner, and the sufferings of the middle class take another path. The struggle is different, yet real with people from different ages. We all seem to behave in a manner that is totally unnatural to our population and at the same time in an absence of relevant facilities. All this after all sums up to a winter labyrinth!

The problem at an aggregate level starts with the lack of electricity. How in a civilized society people are expected to live at peace at least at the domestic levels! The least people expect in uncertain and fragile times is a domestic life which can be lived in the calm of safety, together with family members. The famous ‘white blower’ costs approx. Rs.500 and has the fair potential of keeping the room warm, and humans stable. An electric blanket goes a long way in making the otherwise horrible cold bed warm. Given the water resource availability in the region, access to 24*7 electricity is the basic right of the people. Instead, the authorities decide to do curtail the electricity than to help people live a slightly better life in harsh times of climatic extremities.

Institutions like schools and coaching centres try to create an alternative unrealistic reality in winters. I see little kids waiting for bus in the morning between 08am-9am. Basic science has explained that humans are warm blooded beings and must keep themselves warm in extreme weather conditions. Creation of institutions with unbending rules like early school and coaching timing again seems unnatural. The simultaneous absence of relevant transportation, heating and other arrangements coupled with imitation of the developed world norms and institutions makes this whole system unsustainable.

A never ending number of other such instances and examples can be quoted and referred to. The underlying fact here is the absence of relevant government intervention in making the lives of common Kashmiri households better and sustainable during harsh winters. It affects every single member in a different yet common negative manner. The old fall sick more often. The middle aged runners of the households have to do more chores, run more errands and still never finish with the actions promising any betterment of the household. The children are sent out to study and learn in cold, increasing their chance of falling sick. Whatever the extra buck a household saves after meeting the basic consumption needs goes into meeting the unsustainable and expensive heating arrangements and the never-ending health costs. After losing the savings, people are buried in debt to pay for the things that the public sector institutions were created for.

As a matter of fact, the modern day public institutions are set with the aim of maximizing human welfare. The harshness of winters is not unknown to us as a population. Every year number of deaths are reported caused by the ill provision of basic amenities. And each year the labyrinth is born, people suffer and suffer and suffer! While the rest of the world enjoys each flake of snow, people in Kashmir fear the predictions made by the metrological department. From lack of consumer supplies to absence of sustainable heating arrangements people are left helpless to battle each passing moment of winters, cold and snow. The public authorities should make long-run calls and intend for a better and sustainable provision of basic amenities like uncut electricity and alternative sources of fuel and other winter arrangements.

Dhaar Mehak M. is a Senior Research Fellow, affiliated with the department of Economics, University of Kashmir.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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