Cut-off Valley takes long road to recovery

Indian Paramilitary soldiers stand guard on a deserted street during curfew in Srinagar. Photo: PTI File.

The restrictions on communication enforced in Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of the abrogation of Article 370, have been relaxed, with all landline exchanges in the Valley being made operational on Wednesday (September 4) night.

In a tweet on Wednesday, the public relations department of the state government claimed that all telephone exchanges have been made functional, except 19 which were to be restored by the night. Shahid Choudhary, district magistrate of Srinagar, too had tweeted the same.

However, whether or not all telephone exchanges have been made operational is yet to be verified.

On Tuesday (September 3), Union home minister Amit Shah had issued a time frame for restoration of mobile phone services and overall connectivity in the state. As per reports, Zuber Nishad Bhat, a sarpanch from Harvan in Srinagar district, said that Shah had assured them that mobile phone services in the state will be restored in the next 15 to 20 days.

During a hearing in the Supreme Court on Thursday (September 5) on the communication blockade, Attorney General KK Venugopal too said that step by step relaxation was being allowed in Jammu and Kashmir.

Meanwhile, in a relief to PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter Iltija, the Supreme Court allowed her to meet her mother in Srinagar, where the former chief minister has been under detention since the revocation of the state’s special status on August 5.

Iltija was allowed to meet her mother after she told the court that she had no problem in going to their Srinagar home, but has not been able to move freely in the city.

However, the bench led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi said she needs to obtain permission from the district authorities if she wanted to move across Srinagar.

The top court also ordered the immediate shifting of ailing CPI (M) leader Mohd Yusuf Tarigami from Srinagar, where he is under detention at his home, to AIIMS in Delhi.

Also, the Supreme Court on Thursday took note of an affidavit filed by a Delhi-based law student, who on the top court’s permission, visited his parents in Anantnag recently.

The counsel of Mohd Aleem Syed, a law student of Jamia Millia Islamia, on Thursday placed the affidavit in a sealed cover before the bench led by the Chief Justice.

There have been allegations of healthcare services being affected in the Valley due to the shutdown. But a recent government release said that in August, around seven lakh patients visited out-patient departments (OPDs) in various hospitals.

According to a report by The Wire, this figure was in contrast to a tweet of the Jammu and Kashmir information department on September 2, which put the number of OPD patients at district hospitals at 2.5 lakh. Incidentally, more numbers of patients were admitted in the month of August in the previous years as compared to this year. The report says that the fall in number could either indicate a sudden improvement in healthcare services in the Valley or show the inability of people to access healthcare facilities due to the shutdown.

Last week, a doctor was whisked away by the police for speaking about the healthcare crisis in the state. Dr Omar Salim Akhtar, an urologist, had alleged that many patients were using their own money to buy drugs for chemotherapy and dialysis, and the smart card-based Ayushmaan Bharat scheme was not functional due to the shutdown.

The Centre revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5 and decided to bifurcate it into two union territories, while carving out Ladakh as a separate UT.

Prior to the announcement, in a midnight development, several state leaders, including NC’s Omar Abdullah, Mufti and Tarigami were put under house arrest, while stringent restrictions were enforced by August 5 morning.