In occupied Kashmir, the ongoing lockdown has cost the region’s economy more than $1 billion in two months, BBC said quoting industry experts.
The BBC in its report on the prevailing situation in the occupied territory says, “Two months on, the situation is far from normal. Internet and mobile phone connections remain suspended, public transport is not easily available, and most businesses are shut …………. There is also a shortage of skilled labour, as some 400,000 migrants have left since the lockdown began.”
Mushtaq Chai recalls the afternoon of 2nd August when he received a “security advisory” from the administration. A prominent local businessman, he owns several hotels across the Muslim-majority valley of Kashmir. The note advised that tourists and Hindu pilgrims should “curtail their visit… and return as soon as possible”.
Mr Chai, like many others, took the advisory seriously. “This was the first time in Kashmir’s history that tourists and pilgrims were asked to leave,” Chai says. Tourists left Kashmir amid a curfew in August. Soon officials arrived to enforce the order, and Mr Chai and his staff made arrangements for all of the guests to leave immediately.
“There are around 3,000 hotels in the valley and they are all empty. They have loans to pay off and daily expenses to bear,” says Mr Chai, sitting in his mostly empty hotel in the capital, Srinagar. Only a handful of his 125 staff are at work. Many haven’t returned because of lack of transport – or fear. Tensions have been high in the region, and there have been a number of protests in the city.
Hundreds of houseboats have been lying vacant. Srinagar’s almost 1,000 iconic houseboats have also been running empty. “Every houseboat needs up to $7,000 a year for maintenance,” says Hamid Wangnoo from the Kashmir Houseboats Owners Association. “For many, this is the only source of livelihood.”
“No internet has meant more than 5,000 travel agents have lost work,” says Javed Ahmed, a travel agent himself. “The government says give jobs to the youth. We are young but jobless. We have nothing to do with politics. We want jobs.” “More than 50,000 jobs have been lost in the carpet industry alone,” according to Shiekh Ashiq, president of the chamber of industry.
He says July to September is when carpet makers usually receive orders for export – especially overseas – so they can deliver by Christmas. But they are unable to contact importers, or even their own employees, because of the communications lockdown.
“Apples account for 12–15% of Kashmir’s economy, but more than half of this year’s produce has not been plucked,” says economic journalist Masood Hussain. “If this continues through October, it will have devastating consequences.” In Srinagar, some shop owners wait outside their stores and open them for a customer before closing them hurriedly – until the next customer arrives.
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17 November, 2019