Kashmir: Lockdown Succeeded by Covid-19

Zahoor Ahmad Wani

Summary: How the coronavirus has affected everyday life in Kashmir, India – Editors.

On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organization designated Covid-19 a global pandemic. In order to prevent the spread of the virus, the Indian central government thought it would be beneficial to people to lock down the whole country. Therefore, the Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, announced in his second speech after the outbreak of the Covid-19 that “there will be a total ban of coming out of your homes” and that “every state, every district, every lane, every village will be under lockdown” starting on midnight of March 24.

India’s economy was plummeting even before Modi announced the lockdown. Now the decision has put hundreds of thousands of people out of work and left many poor families struggling to put food on the table. The lockdown kills the informal sector. And banned from the roads, I don’t know how poor people will survive. Neither do I know how they are supposed to maintain social distancing from one another in the small spaces where the majority currently live. Also, in his address Modi supported his claim that the lockdown of the country for 21 days will help to prevent a devastating epidemic. But the story is completely different now. As of now (Monday March 30), more than 1 100 people have been tested positive in India. 29 have died. 45 people of those tested positive live in Jammu and Kashmir. Thus, the numbers point toward that a devastating spread of the virus is getting closer and closer.

The pandemic is not the first shock that Kashmiris are facing. Throughout its history, Kashmir has received countless blows. People have faced miseries, hardships, disruptions, intimidations, humiliations, destructions, and dehumanization. Kashmir emerged as a contentious region between India and Pakistan, the two dominant major powers in South Asia, shortly after their respective emergence as sovereign states in 1947 following the end of the British rule. It is one of the most intractable international conflicts today that has led to constant endemic insecurity and instability in South Asia.

Until Covid-19 reached Kashmir, the valley was locked down for seven long months after the Indian government on 5 August abrogated article 370 and brought Jammu and Kashmir directly under the federal rule for the first time since 1947. Yet the internet remains slow, and 4G services are still not allowed by the administration.

Kashmir reported the first confirmed case of Covid-19 on 18 March 2020. And as the number of cases in Kashmir continues to grow, the administration is encouraging social distancing to slow down the spread of the virus. Thus, schools, colleges, universities, markets, and business establishments are being closed down once again following a brief semblance of normalcy.

Hospitals in Kashmir have already reported shortages of key equipment needed to care for Covid-19 patients, including ventilators and personal protective equipment for the medical staff. Therefore, hospitals are ill equipped to meet the crisis which has unsettled the developed countries. A local newspaper wrote that in Kashmir alone, which has a population of around 69 lakh (6 900 000), there are currently only 97 ventilators. And almost all of them are already occupied by patients suffering from other diseases. And a regional newspaper, Greater Kashmir, reported on 24 March 2020 that there are only two ventilators to combat the virus in the entire South Kashmir, which is spread over four districts, having population of around 30 lakh (3 000 000).

In addition, a newspaper quoted a doctor at one of the hospitals in Kashmir who said, “Forget ventilators, we don’t even have face masks for the staff. I wore this mask at 8:00 AM today and now it’s 4 PM and I am still using the same.” Another doctor at GB Panth Hospital Srinagar said that “even N95 masks and hand sanitizers are not available for doctors and paramedics who are working in the intensive care units”. And on Saturday (28 March) the DAK (Doctors Association Kashmir) wrote a letter to Baseer Ahmad Khan, pointing out that “hospitals in Kashmir lacked proper and adequate personal protection gear especially N95 Masks, PVC coated gowns, goggles, and other equipment.”

Hence, the Covid-19 is making vivid the weaknesses of Kashmir’s healthcare system. A big problem facing the healthcare system here is its lack of reserve capacity to handle healthcare crises of the type that the region is experiencing now. Reports from various corners of the region suggest that a major health crisis is unfolding. Given this current situation, people feel fear, uncertainty, and anxiety. That all indicates Kashmir was less prepared for a pandemic than other states of India.

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11 Comments

  1. Sheikh Muzafar

    It could have been very well planned, but taking a decision within no time and making the lower class to suffer is just horrendous. One more thing, people in Kashmir are taking it as normal lockdown, because we are used to these curfews. It is a medical emergency, people must avoid the gatherings. Since, we are lagging in health sector, the administration should have come up with some measures. They have failed, and there are many loops, need to be addressed…….!!!

    Very well written, the flow is nice. Would love to read more….!!! Keep contributing.

    Reply
  2. Alok Kumar

    Intresting writing peice and thoughtful discussion is there. Congratulations Dr. Wani.

    Reply
  3. Jaffer Tabish

    Yes…sir
    ….I think we are heading towards a big disaster…..bcoz the whole world is facing shortage of ventilators….and medical facilities especially india and particularly jk.
    And according to PM, they dont have any plan to extend this lockdown..
    Thn what’s the plan to stop this epidemic….
    Except “Thali bajao”

    Reply
  4. Waris

    Sir, the said thing about the furthermore destruction of Kashmir’s economic condition is solely true. The Valley was really undergoing a lot of crisis when this pandemic hit the globe and thus it could not prepare at all for what was coming. If like to mention the other thing that you mentioned in the initial words of this article, about lockdown. You said that PM Modi announced lockdown for thr purpose of resisting the pandemic, but it ain’t helping, as the cases are growing day by day. But sir, have not we all agreed upon the truth that we can’t actually save them all. The people who are already infected won’t even know for 14 days that they are effected by this virus, but after 14 days you’ll start to get the symptoms and thus you’ll get to know about the virus(really late already). So it takes at least 14 days. So for the initial 14 days of this lockdown we’ll witness a great increase in the number of cases. But then the graph will start descending, as all the effected will already be put forth, and those shall be isolated (let’s not argue over this thing here) and within, around 10-12 days, we’ll almost get over this thing. There won’t be as many cases then.

    Reply
  5. Mohd Adris Want

    I must say that lockdown is not a good step because poor people, peasants, workers suffered alot… So I think this step is some how good but economic weaker sections suffers alot… And govt announce lockdown in mid night, many poor people of different areas are living in different states of the country… Govt once should think about all those labour’s which are working in different areas of country… They feel very bad, their families are in tense suitution… So according to me this is some how heart wrenching…

    Reply
  6. Roohul Malik

    This pandemic has exposed the health care facilities of whole India. Kashmir region which has mostly been disturbed, due to the historic conflict between India and Pakistan, didn’t got much attention. Both the countries, India and Pakistan focused on the territory of the region. They have neglected the rights of common masses.
    A healthy society can contribute much towards the nation than an unhealthy one. If a country needs to grow, healthy population is the key towards progress.
    The main point in this article that such lockdowns are very harmful for the poor ppopulation of the society. Need of the hour is that governments as well as the elite class of the society need to focus on the poor people, help them in whatever ways they can. So that, the poor would not suffer much with this lockdown.

    Reply
  7. Mehbooba kousar

    Well every year people die of starvation,dengue,malaria and so on but the govt is mum.No major steps are being taken to curb these issues and the biggest irony is that even media considered as a fourth pillar doesn’t raise issues of poverty, injustice of any sort, diseases, unemployment etc

    As far as this pandemic is concerned, yes I admit people are suffering all over the world and we need to take measures to like cleaning hands,taking precautions, remaining in isolation but being human beings we should follow cleanliness practices whether there is pandemic or not.

    Reply
  8. Abina Shah

    This is a great lesson for India . It teaches India that it needs to prioritize its expenses. As a nation, we need not only defence but also healthcare facilities to sustain in this world .

    Reply
  9. Khalid Imran

    Incredible article.. This is the reality of kashmir in every aspect. There is no facility for doctors to face this epidemic covid 19 . In this way the cases have been rising day by day.
    And the lockdown didn’t beneficial for the people of india. It didn’t control the spread of virus along with this the other developed countries like USA, Germany, Italy are also failed to control or eradicate this dangerous epidemic covid 19.I think the reason behind it is that all the countries took this matter easily, they didn’t know that it will lead great loss of life.

    Reply
  10. Adil khan

    As far as my opinion is concerned, I would say that lockdown is a good step…Because this is the only solution to prevent the people from this epidemic. Now if we talk about the weaker sections.I would say yes,It is painful for them in some way or the other…I would request indian govt to reach the needy ones…but it’s also our duty to help them out …I am not saying that lockdown has resulted in 100% success. …but I would say it has lowered the rate of spreading of epidemic in comparison to other countries…Talking about the condition of hospitals and necessary arrangements.I would say yes,I am with you on that! I personally request the govt of india to provide suitable equipments and all necessary arrangements to all the hospitals of j&k so that our doctors can fight this epidemic properly.And if we talk about the happenings in j&k from last 7 or 8 months . .I would say let it end first (fight against the epidemic), then govt of india have to answer the each and every question. .I would say lets first save the nation then we will talk about our sufferings one by one…Can never be forgotten..And at the end I would like to request all the viewers. ..please stay at home…practice social distancing…and help the weaker section as much as possible. That’s all from my side..thanku very much.Wasalaam.

    Reply

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