SRINAGAR: For 24 hours, the police was literally on the tenterhooks especially on the twin highways connecting Kashmir with the rest of the plains. Since a lot of people were stranded on the roads, the police were the main player in ensuring that they are safe and under some shelter until they are moved out of the harm.
The social media did mention the actions of some of the policemen who contributed immensely in getting the stranded people out of a life-threatening situation especially in Pir Ki Gali, a mid-road pass on the Mughal Road, and near the tricky ascend towards the Jawahar Tunnel. There, a traffic policeman was seen taking a kid out along with his family.
Saturday and Sunday were exclusive for the durbar convoys. An officer talking about the “harrowing” details said the traffic was plying routinely till the tensions erupted on the two hair-pins between the Omo and Titanic curves as a result of which the vehicles started skidding and it stopped any movement. “We were seeking some clearance machine and the first reached around 5 pm and it was a snow-mover but a leveller which started skidding itself,” one official who was part of the rescue systems said. “Finally at around 9 pm, we took over, knowing full well that nothing will come to rescue anybody. We got around 200 plus people from the vehicles and escorted them on foot to the Jawahar Tunnel where we had arranged vehicles from Banihal side and drove them there,” the officer said. “It was risky but there was no other option as one foot of snow had accumulated and it was still snowing.”
The second point was Titanic Point, almost 3 ms down from the Omo crossing. “We had 80 people and it took some time to convince them why they should follow us and there were 30 tourists, mostly from Bangladesh who were in their sandals,” a senior traffic police officer said. “We escorted them to the Yatri Niwas where the 24 Bn CRPF is headquartered.”
In the third and the final stage, the civilians trapped around Lower Munda were taken to Qazigund, on foot. “When we reached Qazigund at 2:30 am, we were greeted by a snow plough and the top heads of the district administration and we had nothing to tell them other than Thank You,” the officer said. “The army left their vehicles and marched on foot till Jawahar Tunnel where vehicles had come to drive them to the nearest garrison in Qazigund. They were faster than us.”
Moreover, 600 were rescued from Banihal area who were accommodated at Nowgam and Gund area of Banihal where they were provided food, shelter, and accommodation for a night stay with the active support of the civil administration.
Some pictures clicked by civilians from Pir Ki Gali also showed some traffic cops literally taking the stranded passengers on their backs.
“On Pir Ki Gani, there were people trapped on both sides,” Mushtaq Choudary, SP Traffic Poonch said. “We had 120 people trapped on our side and we somehow reached them and escorted them to a garrison at Pushana which is 12 km from the spot. They stayed there for the night and the next morning we drove them to Surankote. They mostly were truckers and some passengers including Bakerwal families.”
As the wireless flashed a crisis, a Traffic Police DySP accompanied by the AEE left for Pir Ki Gali with a snow plough from Shopian. “As it reached the spot, it developed a snag. They sought another vehicle which took its own time. “Finally, the two men and their team somehow managed to rescue 80 people including children,” a senior officer said. “They reached Hirpora at around 3 am, in pain but safe.”
At Ganderbal, a stranded Tempo vehicle in which 26 passengers were boarded was rescued and shifted to safer places.
Between Banihal Pass and Gulmarg, there are countless instances in which the policemen rescued stranded people and ensured they are safe. Besides, they were part of the overall power and road connectivity restoration process as well.
Despite all this, the police got a bad social media. Reason: They paraded a group of SDRF (State Disaster and Relief Force) personnel in uptown Srinagar. They were carrying life-saving jackets and air-tubes. These two items are key to the rescue operations in floods and inundation. As the police formally released a set of pictures showing a line of SDRF personnel clearing the few inch snow with shovels, and at another spot, using two automatic saws in cutting a small branch, it proved a tipping point.
The people starting clicking the pictures on their own and putting it on the social media. This triggered a volley of bad commentary. The use of the particular items was seen as a showmanship and cops flaunting the “new” thing.
Even insiders in the police said the “use” of the life-saving jackets was visibly an “abuse” of the item and proved a provocation. They say that the police had impressive stories of their actions in last two days but they were either not covered at all or were given a routine treatment that pushed people to hit the police in the virtual world.