With economic losses having run to well over a billion dollars (around Rs. 7,100 crore) since India revoked its statehood in August, the main trade body in the Valley has said that it is now planning to sue the government for damages, News 18 reported.
In a shocking move, the Indian government turned the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into federally controlled union territories after tightening control in a bid to rein in militancy and promote development.
But the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) has said that due to the prolonged shutdown, development has been elusive after people closed markets and businesses as a mark of protest, for the fear of retaliation from insurgents.
Losses ran into at least a 100 billion ruppes by September, but senior VP Nasir Khan says that the number has increased now. “We’ll ask the court to appoint an external agency to assess the losses, because it is beyond us” Khan said. He added that this decision was taken as they couldn’t reach business owners themselves to prepare estimates owing to the telecommunications blackout after the shutdown.
The government cancelled an investor summit it had planned in Kashmir in October. Khan said that KCCI hadn’t received any inquiries from investors since August. People in the business of farming, horticulture and arts and crafts have been badly hit as the clampdown rocked the mainly export-oriented economy.
Apart from severing internet connections, the government had imposed curbs on travel, information collection and sent thousands of troops to the region, citing security concerns. While some curbs have been eased, the internet still remains largely blocked.
The lockdown imposed on Kashmir on August 5 this year, rendered many jobless as markets and factories faced a shutdown. Around 60,000 weavers, who mostly received orders online were left bereft of their jobs after the internet was cut-off in the Valley.
The worst hit was the Rs. 10,000 crore fruit industry as apple growers and traders feared for their lives and business following threats from militants.
Yet, to protest against the lockdown imposed by the government, shopkeepers led a silent protest by keeping their businesses shut for most part of the day, losses notwithstanding.
The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) that visited Kashmir recently, as the government to declare the apple crisis in Kashmir a ‘natural calamity’ after the unseasonal, heavy snowfall and the lack of transport and cold-storage options in the wake of the political turmoil.
The AIKSCC release read, ““Crops like pear, cherry and grapes which were harvested in August were stranded due to complete shutdown in the valley and could not be marketed, leading to near total loss for the farmers.”
“Once harvesting began, unavailability of telephones for first 60 days and non-access to internet even now meant that the communication between apple growers, transporters and traders was snapped, causing a disruption in the demand-supply chain,” the release said.
It also observed that transport cost almost doubled due to the security threat and the lack of trucks and though NAFED tried to carry-out procurement, the operation failed miserably.
The economy built under Article 370 provided a base for self-employment. Rs. 2,000 crore worth of development projects have been pushed back with the major workforce leaving the Valley and non-locals becoming targets of militants.
The situation remains to be tense and it is not hidden from anyone. Yet, the government is still harping on its continued false narrative that all was, is and will be ‘normal’ in Kashmir.
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Kashmir will ‘Disobey’: Citizens choose silence as their strongest weapon of resilience