The location of Kashmir is often discussed from a geo-strategic perspective. The discourses about the region and its people are mostly overshadowed by its political history. The travails of its inhabitants are also seen, discussed and deliberated upon in the context of their political struggles and survival efforts in a conflict zone.
There is a common link amiss in all such discourses; that of real hard struggles of ordinary people leading ordinary lives. The locational coordinates of the valley of Kashmir have over so many years turned into a disadvantage for the valleyites, more by official apathy than by and ineptness.
Historically, Kashmir has remained an independent nation barring the later 18th and 19th centuries. Being independent meant the people of Kashmir had developed enough survival skill as well as instincts to bear the vagaries of nature. Kashmiris had become mostly self-sufficient with regard to needs and wants of a daily life. They had developed ingenious methods, invented indigenous objects and created local infrastructure to carry on with their lives both in sun and shade. Not anymore.
Life is not as simple as it was a few centuries ago. The daily needs of life have grown much beyond the basic requirements of food, shelter and clothing. The lifestyles have changed and so have the standards of living. Leading ordinary lives is not an ordinary task now. No region of the world can operate in a Silo in this age.
Availability of energy resources defines the growth trajectory of nations. Access to communication technology outlines the momentum of growth. The tide against time and distances is turned against only through fuel guzzling means of transportation. The availability of electricity as well as the Internet is as important as availability of food items. One cannot simply afford the long power outages or the downing of communication highways for days altogether. More importantly, human life is hugely vulnerably in absence of life-support systems – medicines and baby food to be more precise.
Unfortunately, Kashmir is thrown back to prehistoric ages every winter. As small disturbance in westerly winds throws life out of gear, puts the brakes on our already placid lives and forces us to spend cold wintry days and nights in forced isolation. Standstill is too small a word to describe the state of life in Kashmir during winters.
Harsh winters and heavy snowfalls are not an occasional occurrence and cannot, therefore, become an excuse for inefficient governance. There are many places in the world that experience much harsh vagaries of nature. But life is not affected as badly anywhere else. The government needs to come out of its archaic style of functioning and invest its energies in planning and developing infrastructure and systems to allow life to exist. Not a tall order.