Life has come full circle in Kashmir. From snow tsunami to earthquake and from floods to a pandemic, Kashmir braved it all in the last two decades. Thousands of lives were lost and property worth tens of thousands of crores was destroyed. But every time, Kashmir rose again. Even in extreme adversity, Kashmir believed in sharing. Nearly 1300 people died and thousands of structures collapsed when a massive earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter Scale hit Kashmir in October 2005.
Border areas of Uri and Tangdhar bore the major brunt given the proximity to Pakistan which was the epicenter for the deadly trembler. Around 86,000 people were killed and; about 69,000 people were injured on the other side of the Line of Control. Roughly, 2.8 million people were displaced. Earlier in the same year, Kashmir was hit by a snow tsunami. Scores of people were buried alive in the upper reaches of Waltengu Naar in south Kashmir. It was the biggest catastrophe in the 2000s. Hundreds of families were displaced and some of them are yet to go back to their homes.
It was the 2014 floods that left Kashmir battered and devastated. The floods claimed 281 lives –196 in Jammu province and 85 in Kashmir valley. Around 29 persons went missing. Jammu and Kashmir suffered losses worth Rs one lakh crore. Around 12.5 lakh families and 5642 villages were affected by the floods. As many as 800 villages remained submerged for over two weeks.
The floods also claimed the lives of 10050 milch animals and 33000 sheep and goats. A total of 353864 structures were damaged. Of which, 83044 were pacca houses. Similarly, 21162 kachha houses were fully damaged. More than 550 bridges and culverts were damaged affecting the road connectivity. In addition, 6000 km road networks were also damaged in the floods. Similarly, 3000 power sub-stations and transmission towers, lines were also affected.
Come 2020, Kashmir suffered another tragedy when COVID 19 came calling. Around 2782 people have died due to the virus so far. Of them, 1210 are from the Jammu division and 1572 from the Kashmir division. Officials figures reveal that there 220546 positive cases in Jammu and Kashmir. Of whom 49951 are Active Positive and 167813 have recovered. Out of 7689823 test results available, 7469277 samples have come back negative.
Till May 10, 1918562 persons were enlisted for observation. They included 87062 under home quarantine including facilities operated by the government, 49951 in isolation, and 133234 under home surveillance. Besides, 1645533 persons have completed their surveillance period.
The second COVID which swept India in March is more deadly. Lakhs of new cases are surfacing every day. People are dying on roads as hospitals are running out of beds. Life-saving drugs have vanished from the market. Medical grade oxygen is in short supply.
For the first time in more than two decades, India has accepted world aid. The pandemic has dealt a killer blow to the economy of the county. Jammu and Kashmir too has not remained unaffected by the economic slowdown. The unemployment rate of Jammu and Kashmir has swelled to 11.4 percent, in April. It is three percent more than the national average.
At 11.4 percent Jammu and Kashmir currently feature among the bottom 10 states with the higher unemployment rate. Haryana tops the list with 35.1 percent followed by Rajasthan (28%), Delhi (27.3%), Goa (25.7%), Tripura (17.3%), Jharkhand (16.5%), Bihar (11.5%), and Jammu and Kashmir (11.4%).
The unemployment rate in Jammu and Kashmir was 14. 2 percent in February. At that time, the national average was 6.9 percent. The unemployment rate is calculated by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) using Consumer Pyramids Household Survey machinery.
A preliminary assessment conducted by the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI) has pegged the business losses at over Rs 40,000 crore, while five lakh people have lost jobs from August 5 2019 to August 2020.
Kashmir is in a disadvantageous position as far as setting up big industries are concerned. Being landlocked with no interstate rail connectivity, industry particularly the manufacturing sector has never prospered in Kashmir. Economic survey 2021 has revealed that the slowdown in the manufacturing sector poses a risk in the economic recovery of the union territory.
Despite immense suffering, Kashmir has always risen from the ashes. Thanks to local charities and NGOs which have been at the forefront to provide relief to the common man.
From floods to pandemic, the charities have led from the front. SRO Kashmir, Ehsaas International, Athrout, Help Poor Voluntary Trust have proved to be a beacon of hope in the crisis. From makeshift hospitals to oxygen concentrators and from ambulance services to food delivery, charities and NGOs are doing yeomen’s service in Kashmir.
Like always, egalitarian Kashmiris will rise again. Inshallah!