R S Gull
As the sun shines over the mountains, it seems as if it has lit up the soil and the stones. For the moment, the rocks and the soil seem painted silver. It is a strange day-light florescence that attracts the outsiders. If you touch it, you just get a taint of silver, especially if it follows a drizzle.
Locals said it is no wonder because it is silica. The local soil has a huge concentration of the silica that has added a new problem to the people. When the ice-melt drains down the slopes, the silica laced floor triggers a reaction with the fluorides that are otherwise part of the water. It creates a situation that most of this water is not advised for the human consumption! It has become a new mess as the area so abundant in water resources still requires a good investment for getting treated tapped water.
The high concentration of silica is a common knowledge. But has there been anybody in the policy network who could explore the possibility for commercial exploitation? Is it possible? Has somebody studied it?
Most of the Chenab valley lives on the two banks of mighty Chenab, the state’s power house. Anything that slips on the slopes gets into the river and is never reclaimed. It includes buses and choppers. Since the Chenab started changing – after massive investments in the energy sector, the area is getting prosperous. There are more tin-roofed houses in the towns that were seen a decade back. Though the upward change is knee-deep as the poverty is still a major issue in the belt, the prosperity has thrown up new elite. They are urban in nature and culture. They have access to anything that one can have in Srinagar or Jammu. They actually have better power supply, thanks to Baglihar and Dul Hasti, than Srinagar can ever aspire for.
In one of the kothis of a proud resident, I asked the host about what happens to the sewerage that habitations produce. His response was shockingly innocent: ‘We send it to Chenab and it goes into the generation of power’. It was yet another proof that Kashmir lives in Doda too! Chenab Valley is doing to Chenab what Kashmir is doing to Jhelum.
One of the major factors responsible for the high mortality on Chenab valley roads may not be the road. It is the way, the road is being used. A general observation for any traveller is that the local drivers move with an impression that the entire road belongs to them, at least at the point they are behind the wheels.
The rash driving is so frightening for the non-locals that they usually do not cross 40 kmph. With the Baglihar dam on one side and a threat of getting buried under a sudden slip from the foothills on the other side, at most of the time, these non local travellers end up killing their time to prevent a head-on.
While the immediate requirement for the traffic managers must be to enforce some kind of discipline, there is a possibility of identifying some great motor sports persons. Kashmir has been hosting a great motor sports event for the last five years now. It takes off from Srinagar, goes to Poonch through Mughal Road, reaches Jammu and returns to Kishtwar through Akhnoor-Reasi-Batote axis and re-enters Kashmir through Sinthan Top. Can Doda’s civil society identify a few of the rash drivers who have excellent track record in safety who would be encouraged to get in high-yielding sport?
Accessible by a perilous route and far away from Srinagar and Jammu, Doda has one of the best hospitals in the region. It is just a district hospital. Though the sanctioned bed strength is only 200 beds but operates with 260 beds 24 x 7. It has most of the basic facilities though some available infrastructure is waiting to be operated as no trained personnel are deployed. The hospital is doing great. In March alone there have been 12634 patients in OPD, 1354 in IPD. Of the 286 deliveries 68 were caesarian. There were 313 smaller surgeries, 5455 lab tests, 756 X-rays, 225 ECGs and 1630 immunizations. This was done despite the fact that only five out of 20 assistant surgeons are posted. There is no staff radiologist for three years, only two of three gynaecologists exist, no senior pathologist, only two anaesthetics and no paediatrician at all. This region is land-locked and deep into precarious mountains. Jammu must address it.
Regardless of the socio-economic changes that the region witnessed in all these years, the place has not witnessed any neutralization of its fundamentals. In the Jamia Masjid of Doda, one surprises to find nearly 100 people from all age groups attending a class to learn how to read the holy Quran. A teacher comes daily and makes them learn to recite.
Residents said they are strengthening certain system and protecting them from any neutralization. A unique system in the town is that on the two Eids, the society has banned any charity for individuals or institutions which are not local. The reason: for these two days, the entire charity is collected for the local committee that manages the affairs of the mosque and the town’s destitute. Part of it even goes to the select few in the periphery as well. Once it is collected, the management of the local committee offers details of the fresh collections and the expenditures booked for next year. It is on basis of these collections, the management stays tension free for whole of the year.
There have been efforts to break this tradition. Somehow, it survives. And residents say that suggests the inherent strength that Doda posses.