Economy In Dire Straits

Kashmir economy is battling multiple headwinds triggered by withdrawal of Article 370 in August last. The first to be hit is the tourism sector. Valley has not only been evacuated of all the tourists but the fresh arrivals also are drastically down. The image of the Valley as a deeply troubled place has stuck so much that few holiday-makers think of visiting. That too, during a winter when the Valley has received snowfall in abundance. And which should normally have been a boon for tourism.

Second, the communication clampdown that was enforced to purportedly maintain peace too has impacted the businesses hard, especially the IT sector which almost stopped functioning altogether during the five months after August 5 move.Though the Information Technology industry got some relief after the internet lease lines were restored for this sector but the overall situation of trade in Kashmir continues to be dismal. Third, the lingering shutdown in the Valley against New Delhi’s move that continued almost for four months also set back the shopkeepers and public transport. Fourth, Kashmir’s famed handicraft sector was left reeling and staring at an estimated 50,000-60,000 job cuts. The artisans did not get any fresh orders in the absence of communication facilities. As a result, even, the highly skilled artisans have been forced to look for odd jobs to meet their daily needs. The total loss to economy so far, could be in the range of around Rs fifteen to twenty thousand crore, according to the estimate by trading organizations.

Similarly, according to estimates, the hotel and restaurant industry has seen more than 30,000 people losing their jobs. The e-commerce sector, which includes courier services for purchases made online, has also seen 10,000 people losing their jobs. This paints a picture of a completely wrecked economy.

Winter saw a significant amount of commercial activity  disappear. So, people in Kashmir are naturally upset with New Delhi for revoking Article 370 in the middle of a peak business season in summer. The prevailing despair has been heightened by the receding hope of an improvement in the situation in near future. Already people are uncertain about the upcoming spring and summer when while economic activity picks up in the Valley, the political activity does too. If the past fifteen years are any guide, all mass unrests in Kashmir have been triggered in warm season. Though the Valley has mercifully been uneasily calm over the past six months, it hardly offers guarantee of peace for the upcoming months. Here is hoping that the peace holds enabling the economy to get back on track.

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