Restrictions that were imposed in Jammu and Kashmir in early August, when the Centre revoked the state’s special constitutional status, have crippled the regional economy, PTI reported on Sunday. Businesses incurred losses worth more than Rs 10,000 crore following the security and communications lockdown, according to a trade body.
“The running business losses for Kashmir region have crossed Rs 10,000 crore and all sectors have been severely hit,” said Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Sheikh Ashiq. “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 recent weeks, but the feedback that we are getting is that the business is dull.”
The government justified the restrictions saying they were important to prevent law-and-order problems and curb terrorist activities. While the restrictions were gradually lifted, according to the government, a civil shutdown to protest against the government decisions have kept most shops in the Valley closed for weeks, apart from a couple of hours in the day.
Ashiq said the main reason for the losses was the suspension of internet services, pointing out a “basic need” was missing. The trade body chief said the organisation had informed the governor’s administration about the losses being suffered by businesses and cautioned it may have consequences in the future.
Ashiq said the information technology sector in the state that provided services in the United States and Europe was disrupted by the internet restrictions. “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,” he added. “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.”
Ashiq said the administration should take responsibility for the losses and take measures to alleviate the traders’ problems. Traders would also face technical problems with the Goods and Service Tax, and online returns, the official added.
Ashiq said development projects worth nearly Rs 2,000 crore were on hold because the Valley’s workforce had migrated. He added that workers would now have to be given assurances, like tourists, in order to get them back to Kashmir.
Traders in Kashmir were not averse to the idea of outside investments in the Valley, Ashiq said. “We are not against investments, but we have not been taken on board on anything about some people wanting to invest here,” he added.
Detentions of political leaders
The trade body president said the detention of political and business leaders in Kashmir was unfortunate, and demanded the release of Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation President Mohammad Yasin Khan, whose mother passed recently.
Several mainstream politicians, including former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, and Omar Abdullah, were put under house arrest as a preventive measure. Farooq Abdullah, who is the president of the National Conference, was booked under the “public order” section of the Public Safety Act, which allows authorities to detain a person for six months without trial.
The Jammu and Kashmir unit of the Congress on Saturday alleged that the state administration was “deliberately downgrading” the security of the party’s leaders. They claimed it was an attempt to keep the politicians from reaching out to the public.
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