Warwan/ Marwa, July 21: Abdul Satar, 70, of Gumri village of Chenab Valley’s Warwan area needs to update his Aadhaar card.
He goes to the Tehsil office but the employees there tell him he would have to get it done at the Deputy Commissioners (DC) office in Kishtwar.
However, as the picturesque twin valleys of Warwan and Marwah nestled between the Pir Panjal mountain range spread over 40 villages with nearly 40,000 population, are yet to be connected to the district headquarters of Kishtiwar, Satar gives up.
The villagers have to trek a 30 km treacherous mountainous stretch to reach Dachan on Kishtwar side.
Hence 100 km long Marwa-Warwan-Margan Top-Matigawran Road thrown open in the year 2007 and connecting it with Kokernag in south Kashmir's Anantnag district remains the only surface link to the outside world.
However, it is not an all-weather route and remains shut for at least six months, leaving 40,000 souls cut off.
Like Satar, there are several others who are not able to reach Kishtwar for various works in government offices.
“We have to rely on the tehsil office to get our work done but if at all we need to process our files at the DC office, it is a herculean task for us,” Nazir Ahmad, 52, of Aafti village said.
Ahmad said that not everyone could walk to Dachan and so they have to dole out at least Rs 5000 to reach Kishtwar town via Kokernag-Sinthan Top route.
“If we leave home early in the morning, we reach Kokernag in the noon and then proceed for Kishtwar to reach there in the evening,” he said.
Ahmad said that to get their work done in the offices they have to stay there for weeks.
“If you don’t have acquaintances, you have to book an accommodation, emptying your pockets further,” he said.
Warwan is located barely 120 km from Anantnag town, however, it is more than 250 km from main Kishtwar.
The population there speaks Kashmiri with an accent from Anantnag.
“This area for its proximity with Anantnag should have been its part but for no reason, it is in Kishtwar district,” says Abdul Rashid, 60, of Basmina village.
He said that they prefer hospitals in Anantnag for treatment.
“Last year in autumn my daughter was expecting and with little facility at the local PHC, I was left with no choice but to bring her to Anantnag for delivery in advance. I rented a room in Matigawran village and she delivered a baby in winter at MCCH Anantnag,” Rashid said.
He said that in the past, many pregnant women died, as they could not get proper treatment.
“As there are no degree colleges in the twin valleys, the students who can’t bear the expenses give up studies. Others who have little sources get admission in Anantnag colleges,” Rashid said.
As the road shuts during winters due to heavy snowfall, several villagers shift to Kashmir.
“I am a labourer by profession and thus work for six months in Anantnag to make my living,” said Muhammad Jabbar, 66, of Marwa.
Jabbar lives on rent in Larnoo village of Kokernag along with his family members during winters.
However, not everyone migrates to Kashmir.
Majority stays home but makes sure to stock up all essentials before the road gets closed.
Ghulam Hassan, 55, a farmer from Marwah is one of them.
“As the winter approaches, I travel to Kokernag or Anantnag to buy essentials, medicines, and warm clothes for myself and my family and then return home,” Hassan said.
He said that they have to wait till June to visit Kashmir or Kishtwar district headquarters.
“A tunnel from Marwah to Chatroo on Kishtiwar side and Warwan to Dardpora- Chatapal on Shangus-Anantnag side would have eased our sufferings but the promise was never fulfilled,” Hassan said. “There was no proper mobile facility in our area till recently and we could make calls from village booths like people would do back in the 1980s. Now even as Jio communications has erected few towers, connectivity is very poor, and lacks internet facility,” he said.
Hassan said only in case of extreme health exigency, the patients are flown to Kishtwar or Kashmir
“Life is still difficult in our part of the world with virtually no communication or electricity facilities. The harsh winter makes it worse,” he said.
Hassan said they were only able to light the bulbs with solar panels.