Srinagar, Oct 27: The ongoing closure in Kashmir has crippled the valley’s economy as the business community has suffered losses amounting to over Rs 10,000 crore in three months, a trade body said here.
The deadlock in Kashmir, after the Centre announced the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, completed 84 days on Sunday with the valley in shutdown as the main markets continued to remain shut and public transport off the roads. Some shops open for a few hours early in the morning and late in the evening in certain areas, including in the city centre of Lal Chowk in Srinagar, but the main markets are shut.
Sheikh Ashiq, president of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), said while it was difficult to assess the nature of losses as the situation was not normal yet, the business community has received a serious jolt from which it was very difficult to recover.
“The running business losses for Kashmir region have crossed Rs 10,000 crore and all sectors have been severely hit. It has been nearly three months now and yet the people are not doing business because of the prevailing situation. There has been some activity in the recent weeks, but the feedback that we are getting is that the business is dull,” Ashiq told PTI.
He identified the suspension of internet services as the main factor for the losses. “In today’s times, the basic need of any business is the internet which is missing on the ground. We have conveyed it to the governor’s administration that the businesses will suffer in Kashmir, the economy will weaken. Which will have huge consequences in the longer run,” he said.
Giving examples of several sectors, Ashiq said the IT sector was an upcoming sector and there are companies which were providing services in the US, in Europe and their business has been affected by the suspension of internet facilities.
“If we take the handicraft sector, people associated with the trade receive orders in July-August and have to deliver the products around Christmas and New Year. When they can implement these orders, only then would they be served. There is no connectivity, so there were no orders resulting in loss of jobs to over 50,000 artisans and weavers,” he said.
The KCCI president said the government should own responsibility for the losses and take steps to mitigate the sufferings of the traders. “This is not about losses in business only. We will be facing technical issues like GST, online returns, whether you make business or not, we will face them and other issues like that. We are not falling under certain guidelines because we are missing them. So there should be a system for these sort of things for this region.
“We are disturbed even at the moment. Who will think about this? The government has to take the responsibility and it has to come out with the ways,” he said. He said the development of the valley has come to a standstill.
“We had about Rs 2,000 crore worth of development projects which have been pushed back because the workforce has left the valley. Now, we have to assure them, like tourists, and it will take time,” he said. Ashiq said it is the responsibility of the government to come out with various measures like certain packages for the business community in the prevailing circumstances.
“They have not approached us yet, but they may in the coming month,” he said.
Asked about the detention of some business leaders, Ashiq said it was unfortunate and believed that businesses in Kashmir valley should not be politicised. Let business be a separate thing. This is what KCCI believes in. Let there be no politicisation, he said.
He said the KCCI has taken up the release of Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation (KTMF) president Mohammad Yasin Khan, whose mother passed away a few days ago. “At least, he should be released on humanitarian grounds.
Ashiq said the business community in Kashmir was not against outside investments in the valley and KCCI would always be at the forefront in inviting foreign investments.
We are not against investments, but we have not been taken on board on anything about some people wanting to invest here. It was the government’s endeavour even before New Delhi took this decision (on Article 370) to get investments,” the KCCI president said.
Another spell of snow this week
Srinagar, Nov 10: Kashmir should brace up for a second spell of wet weather as officials have predicted widespread snow and rains on Friday and Saturday this week.
An official at the local Meteorological Department said there will be widespread snow and rain in Kashmir on November 15 and 16 (Friday and Saturday) even as the weather till then will remain cloudy with rainfall in isolated places.
“We are experiencing western disturbance over Kashmir which is going to worsen by the end of this week. There are chances of widespread snow and rainfall although its intensity would not be as much as last week’s snowfall,” the official told The Kashmir Monitor.
Kashmir experienced a record breaking November snowfall last Thursday that took everyone by surprise and left a trail of death and destruction across the region.
With electricity and other essential supplies still erratic in most of the places, the heaps of snow on roads and lanes are not melting given that sunshine has stayed aloof these days.
Meanwhile, the so-called all-weather highway connecting Kashmir to the rest of the world was again blocked on Sunday.
Thousands of commuters were stranded on the highway after a massive landslide blocked the road in Ramban in the afternoon, only hours after traffic resumed on the route.
Traffic on the highway resumed around 3 am on Sunday after remaining suspended for over 13 hours following a massive landslide near Mahar – two kms short of Ramban town.
Road clearing agencies worked hard to ensure early opening of the road, but the fresh landslide, covering around 100 metres of the road with debris, played spoilsport, officials said.
The landslide struck near Digdole and at least 12 hours are needed to make the arterial road traffic-worthy. Men and machines have been pressed into service to clear the debris, they said.
According to the officials, hundreds of passenger vehicles and trucks carrying essential commodities to the Valley crossed the Jawahar Tunnel — the gateway to Kashmir — since Sunday morning.
However, the fresh landslide left over 1,300 vehicles stranded on the highway, they said.
Traffic on the highway remained suspended on Thursday and Friday after Kashmir Valley and high altitude areas of Jammu region, including Jawahar Tunnel, experienced first major snowfall.
Heavy rains, which lashed the highway from Banihal to Jammu, was causing frequent landslides, the officials said.
Meanwhile, the Mughal Road, which connects the border districts of Poonch and Rajouri in Jammu region with south Kashmir’s Shopian district, remained closed for the fifth day on Sunday, they said.
The road was closed for traffic on Wednesday after heavy snowfall between Pir Ki Gali and Shopian stretch.
Snow fury: Patient inflow to hospitals drops by 10%
Srinagar, Nov 10: Shedding snowflakes off his tweed pheran, 32-year-old Zubair Ahmad heaves a sigh of relief, as he enters the gates of SMHS hospital, Srinagar.
Hailing from south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, Zubair’s tryst with valley’s first snowfall began on a sad note. His mother developed a searing pain in the stomach on the night of November 7, when all the arterial roads were covered with thick layers of snow.
“Last week, my mother underwent gall bladder surgery. She was doing well until the night of November 7 when she suddenly complained of pain in her stomach. Despite our best efforts, my family members couldn’t ferry her to the hospital. The snow accumulated on the roads made the commute impossible,” he said.
Next morning, Zubair pleaded before several Sumo cab drivers to ferry his mother to the hospital, but it too turned out to be another herculean task.
“The roads remained covered with snow next day as well. All the drivers that I approached refused to undertake the journey. It was after a lot of persuasion that one of the drivers finally agreed but he charged Rs 1700,” he says.
Similarly, 40-year-old Mehraj-ud-din from north Kashmir’s Baramulla district suffered in equal measure due to heavy snowfall. His sister’s surgery scheduled on November 8 got deferred as she was unable to reach the hospital.
“A lot of trees were uprooted outside our home. Besides, the snow clearance of roads was yet to start from our side. As a result, I was unable to take my sister to the hospital,” Mehraj narrates.
It was on the afternoon of November 9 that he finally managed to reach the hospital. “After a lot of haggling, the Sumo driver settled at Rs 1200 to drop us at SMHS hospital.” he says.
On November 8, the unprecedented snowfall, one of the heaviest in recent years left a trail of death and destruction. More than nine people were killed and property worth 100 crore rupees got damaged due to the snowfall.
Consequently, the hospitals in the valley also witnessed a decreased patient inflow.
An official at the Government Super-Specialty hospital, Srinagar said only 30-40 percent patients have visited the hospital for last three days.
“The patients especially the ones who had to come from peripheral hospitals as referrals faced a lot of inconvenience. The administration has shown a lackadaisical approach in dealing with the snow crisis,” he said wishing not be named.
Medical Superintendent, SMHS Hospital Dr Nazir Chowdhary admitted that the patient inflow has dropped. “There has been 10 percent decline in patient inflow for the last three days,” Chowdhary said.
Medical Superintendent of SKIMS, Farooq Jan said: “We were fully geared up to deal with the crisis. However, patient inflow decreased by 10 percent since Wednesday.”
Reverse migration:Life comes a cropper for non-locals in Kashmir
Srinagar, Nov 10: On a chilly November morning, tailor Suresh Kumar along with his four family members is busy loading his belongings including a switching machine into a cab at Tourist Reception Center, here.
Kumar, who has been living in Kashmir for the last 15 years, has cut-short his stay to leave for his home in Uttar Pradesh. Scared after 11 non-locals including truckers, apple trader and labourers were killed, Kumar decided to call it quits and leave for his hometown in UP.
“All my associates from Anantnag left for their homes. I don’t think it will be a wise decision to stay here especially when many non-locals have been attacked in the last one month,” he said.
Kumar has joined a long list of migrant workers who have either left or winding up their businesses to go home following attacks on non-locals in Kashmir.
A cab driver at TRC said on an average nearly 10 to 20 taxis leave for Jammu with migrant workers on board. “Mostly non-locals would leave for their homes in mid-November. In October, people, who would work in north or south Kashmir areas, have left for their homes,” he said.
Non-locals have been leaving the valley since August 5 when central government abrogated article 370 and bifurcated state in two union territories.
Official figures reveal three lakh migrant labourers left Kashmir post abrogation of Article 370. In August last year, five lakh migrant labourers were present in Kashmir. This August only two lakh labourers stayed in Kashmir.
Migrant labourers are the backbone of the workforce that performs different jobs including harvesting apples in Kashmir. Since local labourers are scarce, migrant labourers are skilled and inexpensive.
“Growers had to face immense hardship in absence of non-local labourers. Even fruit markets where they would load apples, remained deserted this year,” said Ghulam Mohammad a grower from Pattan area of North Kashmir.
The migration of non-local labourers also hit developmental works in Kashmir. An official of Roads and Building Department said work on many of their projects have been stopped due to the absence of non-local workforce.