Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) is sitting on a catastrophe as its nagged Election Commission gave go-ahead to conduct elections to the 45-member assembly, defying National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), which had suggested postponing polls amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner of PoK, the NCOC had stated that due to the rise in the number of coronavirus cases in the country, the polls should be delayed. The letter mentioned that large political gatherings due to elections will lead to the further spread of the potentially deadly virus in the state, adding that the number of coronavirus positive cases are already high therein, reported Geo News.
Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider had accused the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government of Prime Minister Imran Khan of wanting to achieve its desired results in the Kashmir elections. Farooq Haider said that if Prime Minister Imran Khan interferes in the election, then PoK will forget all courtesy. He said that no matter what Prime Minister Kashmir will never become a province.
Since the election campaign began in the region over the past few days 124 new cases of COVID-19 were detected with three deaths. So far PoK has registered 20,935 infections with 594 deaths. In a small area, that comprised just two and a half districts in 1947, the numbers are quite exorbitant.
There is completely a tale of contrast when it comes to COVID-19 management across the Line of Control (LoC). While administration and volunteers in Jammu and Kashmir have taken sincere steps to stem the spreading pandemic by distributing masks and food in far-flung areas, residents of PoK are facing hardship.
Be it the adequate supply of food materials or providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits to doctors and the paramedical staff in PoK, Pakistan is showing no concern, leaving the beleaguered people to suffer in silence and eventually wither into oblivion.
“People in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) are facing a severe crisis of essential commodities as Islamabad fails to deliver on its promise during the lockdown due to COVID-19 outbreak in the occupied territory. The pandemic is acting as salt on the wounds of residents. Though the government announced relief packages for the people of PoK, nothing has been done thus far,” according to a recent report in news agency ANI.
In contrast, a total of 76 per cent people of above 45 years have been administered the COVID-19 vaccine so far in Jammu and Kashmir, which is among the leading regions in the country in vaccination. Achieving the feat of 66 per cent when the national average is just 32 per cent is a big achievement.
Four districts -- Ganderbal, Jammu, Samba and Shopian -- have achieved 100 per cent coverage in this category, while the remaining districts continue with promising progress, they added.
In a presentation recently Union Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, mentioned that J-K is performing reasonably well in mitigating the second wave of COVID-19.
About the augmentation of medical infrastructure and facilities in the union territory, the administration has recently adopted a strategy to establish five-bedded Covid care facilities with at least one oxygen-supported bed at approximately 4,000 panchayats to provide immediate medical care to the coronavirus patients who can then be referred to higher-level facilities in case of emergency. Additionally, 33,000 Covid care medical kits have been distributed.
Also, twin 500-bedded temporary hospitals were established by the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO). They started functioning on July 1.
Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has been on the toes implementing a host of measures to bring down the case positivity rate. Due to collaborative effort from all stakeholders, coupled with comprehensive surveillance of Covid-19, decentralization of healthcare system, accelerated vaccination drive, effective Covid clinical management and continuous augmentation of healthcare infrastructure had yielded favourable results in controlling the spread of the virus.
“With optimum utilization of testing and vaccination capacities, strict adherence to SoPs and Covid-appropriate behaviour and by working 24x7, we can address the challenges of the pandemic,” the Manoj Sinha said.
The police department has been asked to distribute face masks amongst violators at checkpoints. People need to be aware that the restrictions are for their welfare and safety.
He has also passed specific directions to speed up the process for identification of beneficiaries under the special scheme envisaged by the government for families who have lost their bread-earner during the pandemic.
(To be continued…)
(Author is Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India and a Geo Political Analyst)