A place that bears a tremendous amount of potential for business, trade and commerce has been in shambles for almost more than two decades now. Impending shutdowns, curfews, bandhs and protests are the monstrous impediments that have been drifting the economy of Kashmir in untoward directions, and thus playing havoc with common lives especially the business class.
According to the recent reports submitted by the KCCI (Kashmir Chambers of Commerce and Industry) just over the time period of post-August 5, when the valley was completely under a stringent shutdown and the internet was clamped down as well, the valley underwent an economic loss of around 15000-20000 crores. This loss amounts to just the time period of post-August 5. Needless to mention that the valley has been simmering in unrest and turmoil for over 30 years now, therefore the economic losses that this place has borne could well be envisioned or maybe are beyond imaginations.
Businesses at all levels, small scale or large scale have been equally affected. In kashmir, not many people are into private jobs and the private sector itself in Kashmir is not that great, it is at its lowest and has had least chances to grow and expand. Unlike the other parts of the country where the private sector is thriving boundlessly, in Kashmir it is at its lowest low owing to the instability and unrest. Government jobs, business, agriculture, tourism and handicraft are the major pillars of the economy here.
Constant shutdowns and bandhs cripple down the progress of the business and leaves the business class in a precarious state. With all this ever-looming instability and unrest the business class here keep struggling to just earn back their mean investment let alone the profit.Often some business men even stagger to earn back the mean investment and subsequently wallow in losses and bank debts.
In a one to one conversation with Mr. Salim Yusuf, a 62-yrs old businessman who deals in cement and iron and is also in the construction sector, when asked about how he has been affected over the past few years and how the growth of his business has been like, had this to say , “ Infrastructure and Construction sector has also suffered a great deal post August 5 and also prior to that, as all these constant shutdowns and clamp downs causes the non-availability of the required essential materials and also the skilled and unskilled labor force.”
Adding on Mr. Yusuf said, “ Being in the construction sector the building material that I had purchased for the construction purposes kept lying there for long like waste and could not be utilised as the required labor force could not reach the site for all the manual work as the shutdown post August 5 locked everyone up inside the four walls of their houses. Such episodes have been recurring here largely because of the uncertainty that has taken over the valley over the past few decades”.
In another conversation with a 30-yrs old law graduate, Almaas sheikh (name has been changed), who having freshly ventured into the business with the opening of a restaurant, and having raised the capital for the same with a bank loan mentioned that, “ I raised the capital for my start-up with a bank loan and also employed almost 3-4 people for all the essential work as demanded by the restaurant. Initially we witnessed a very overwhelming response from the people and also earned a fine customer base. We were managing all the expenses well and had a fine profit. However, in August when things in the valley took a very horrendous turn, we had to withstand a setback. With everything shut, we were in a state where we weren’t earning but were expending, as we had to pay the workers and had to look after other expenses as well.This proved to be a real jolt to our new venture and rendered us almost hopeless. You never know, when things would take a ugly turn here, and this uncertainty and unrest is very much detrimental to the business and economy, by large.
Tourism industry has been devastated, and the folks associated with it as well, which envelopes the artisans, hoteliers, and else. The Shikara and houseboat owners in Dal Lake have also been suffering the perils of the unfortunate unrest that has been lurking. Their sole income depends on tourist influx which has been plummeting down drastically due to the political instability and unrest and fear imprinted in the minds of the outsiders. The handicrafts have also seen a downfall as there are very minimal sales to the point where the sellers were bound to sell their goods to just survive somehow. All of this ultimately culminates into the depressive environment and poignance.
One would be able to well-imagine that if not for all the unrest and turmoil, this place would have undoubtedly reached the heights of progress and would have unwaveringly witnessed an industrial revolution. Alas, this place has been dragged to the lows and left in shambles. Despite the tremendous potential that this place holds, to thrive immeasurably, the unemployment rate here is such that in a recent bank recruitment program conducted by the bank, 1,00,000 candidates appeared in the exam while the posts available were just 1500. Resolution however is yet to be known.
(The author is journalism student and can be mailed at [email protected])