Snowed under in Gulmarg


Over the next five hours at 8,825 feet, Chechi guides the operator on a road that snakes through snow-covered trees. "When it starts to snow, everyone's focus is on Gulmarg," he says.

Chechi, who holds an engineering degree from the National Institute of Technology, Srinagar, is considered an expert in snow clearing by his colleagues in the mechanical engineering department. Chechi, who joined the department 17 years ago, has always headed snow-clearing operations.

He has guided operations in the hilly regions of Kashmir where the snow depth plunges to more than six feet in winters. "From November 15, the control room becomes operational. For us, it's 24x7 duty for the next four months," he says.

For four months, he remains stationed at the Tangmarg control room, at times even driving the snow-cutter himself so that his operator could rest. "This is one of the latest snow-clearing machines we have acquired and it works well in hostile and freezing conditions. Whenever we go for clearing operations, I have to be there," he says.

At 11 am, Rolba has managed to clear one side of the road. But that's not enough to allow traffic. Sipping hot tea, Chechi says that the road needs to be opened by afternoon. "This time, the snow is more than five feet deep, and it's very difficult to clear the road. A small error can lead to a machine breakdown, even a fatal accident." He gets messages from the control room constantly. "Everyone wants to know when the road will be open," he says.

Even after hours of ploughing the snow-clad roads, Chechi and his men are still hard at work, with no time to rest. "There is no rest when the road is still closed," says a young officer who was posted here four months ago. "I have served in Gurez and Tanghdar areas of the Valley, but clearing the snow in Gulmarg is always a challenge," he says.

... contd.

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