Coronavirus: Gradually, Kashmir Starts Exhibiting The Fight Back Spirit

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by Saima Bhat

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SRINAGAR: Many billion people are under lockdown across the world. People remained confined to their homes, as part of the effort to stop the spread of Covid-19. The pandemic has killed more than 16104 with Italy emerging a bigger graveyard than China, the first geography of the pathogen, as Spain has surpassed the Iran death toll.

But at a place like Kashmir where life had just started limping back to normalcy after more than 200 days of lockdown post abrogation of special status, the scare of Coronavirus has put the life at halt with a lock down that, in the first phase, will continue till March 31. There is fear of death by the invisible and then there is tension of life as well. That was perhaps why people were seen moving around with their routine in the city interiors. Reports from villages suggest that movement is low but the routine is on.

Implementing a lock-down in Kashmir is not a very difficult job especially if the people are interested.

The challenging task was to disrupt the virus’s infection chain by preventing people arriving from off shore locations and the mainland India to safer places. The virus arrival coincided with the return of the pilgrims, seasonal labour, traders from outside. Since most of the universities closed their campuses, all the students returned home. By now, more than 4000 people are in quarantine, within home or in government designated facilities.

On Sunday, they were seen restricted to their spaces with nothing much to do. A few rays of hope were visible when some people came out to the forefront for extending a helping hand, something they have always been doing but were afraid of the infection this time.

“Gulshan Books, Kashmir donates 1,000 books to different quarantine centres in the valley. Way to go! Wonderful idea and initiative,” tweeted Dr Haseeb Drabu, the former finance minister, showering praise for the local publisher. “Will surely go a long way in overcoming the pervasiveness of isolation. Happy and healthy reading!”

Responded Sheikh Ajaz, the Managing Director of Gulshan Books: “We are trying our best to help you open the doors of new knowledge to enlighten your minds in this strenuous time.” Ajaz closed the brief message with “Happy Reading.”

Books, as per Ajaz have been donated with an aim to keep students occupied, who recently returned from affected countries and are presently in quarantine to contain spread of Covid-19.

“Initial batch of about 1,100 students arrived from Bangladesh, Iran and other countries. I felt they may be bored for two weeks so compiled 1,000 books and donated,” reported The Economic Times while quoting Sheikh Ajaz.

The books, Ajaz says were packed in cartons and handed over to Srinagar DC.

Gulshan Books also runs a bookshop-cum-cafe on Nehru Park in the middle of Dal Lake housing over 80,000 books, was featured in the Limca Book of Records in 2018.

Two Hoteliers

But before books, the district commissioner Srinagar, Dr Shahid Iqbal was overwhelmed when two of hoteliers voluntarily handed over him keys of their hotels so that they could be turned into quarantine facilities at the time of crisis.

Students who flew home from abroad sitting on chairs outside quarantine facility in Srinagar on Sunday March 22,2020. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

With over 1400 residents in quarantine and more expected to be taken up in the coming days, the residential facility is a challenge that no government alone would be able to manage, Dr Shahid was quoted saying. He made mention of Suhail Bukhari and Mr Irshad for ‘putting their luxurious hotels at the disposal of the Srinagar administration’.

Tiger zinda hai!! Let’s clap for Mr Irshad who came all the way to offer keys of his hotel to help us. #Coronavirus,” tweeted the techie DC Srinagar.

So far, the Srinagar administration has requisitioned 65 well-equipped hotels and government accommodations to be used as quarantine facilities for citizens arriving back in Srinagar from outside countries and those who might have come in contact with a Covid-19 positive case in the district.

But earlier when the administration declared first coronavirus positive case in Srinagar, many residents in the Dalgate area were found on roads protesting against the administration that their lives are put on risk by declaring the hotels in the city as quarantine facilities. The administration literally had a tough time in managing the crisis. It took some time to convey the angry men that the virus does not kill unless you do not go close to him, as close as 2 meters. At the same time, this led the society to react to these protests because these were aimed at stigmatising a disease, which, by the way did not exist amongst the people quarantined.

The district administration in Srinagar has tied up with a local NGO to manage some of the critical requirements for the medical staff. Dr Choudhary later tweeted: “Srinagar Adm in collaboration with Govt Medical College and NRLM has roped in local NGOs and Units for production of these items. Supply starts in next 2 days. Very little we can actually do for the Saviours.”

SMC

Srinagar Mayor Junaid Azim Mattu also reached to his twitter where he announced that he has arranged free sanitary napkins for the women at the quarantine facilities after receiving messages about their requirement.

“A total of 700 boxes of sanitary pads are being delivered to all quarantine facilities housing female students free of cost – as promised. Thank You to Mr. Aqib from Seha for prompt volunteer action,” the Mayor posted on Twitter.

Srinagar Municipal Corporation staff sprays disinfectant as a precautionary measure against Coronavirus in Srinagar’s historic Jamia Masjid on March 13, 2020. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

Apart from administration, the Jammu and Kashmir students association, who did a tremendous job exactly a year earlier after many Kashmiris started witnessing attacks in the Indian plains, they have again started a helpline where they are helping local students coming to their homes. Various States in India on Sunday decided to continue with the lock down to avoid any outbreak of Covid-19 in the India.

Car Ride

An electrical engineer in car put an interesting post on the Facebook. “I am offering my own car to any esteemed citizen of Tral who cannot afford one,” Harminder Pal Singh posted. “I will be offering the service during late hours as I am available after 6 pm.”

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