Protect Livelihoods Too

FROM July 13 onwards, the administration has re-imposed lockdown in Srinagar following a surge in Covid cases over the past one week.  Lal Chowk and 67 other areas in Srinagar have been declared as containment zones. The authorities have sealed Ghanta Ghar at Lal Chowk and also Maisuma, Natipora and Eidgah among several areas to send a message about the seriousness of the situation. J&K has recorded over 10,000 coronavirus cases so far,  majority of them in the Kashmir valley.  It was only in June that the administration had gradually eased the lockdown letting the businesses partially reopen. But a few weeks into the reopening the government has re-imposed the lockdown citing the rise in cases. The decision has been taken effortlessly despite the fact Kashmir has now been under lockdown for the past year and it has wrought havoc with the economy. As a local business body has calculated, the Valley lost an estimated Rs 18000 crore in the first six months of the siege following  the revocation of Article 370  in August last.  There have been six more months of the lockdown since, albeit partially eased for small durations.  Tourism, one of the mainstays of the local economy has come to a halt. This has  hit the hotel industry and travel operators hard. It was not a pleasant sight to see the government officials asking tourists through public address system to vacate Pahalgam in two hours in a video that has gone viral on social media.  Similarly,  the handicrafts sector has  been crushed. The fledgling IT industry and the start-ups have borne the brunt of the communication blockade and it is only now that they are picking up the pieces. Ditto for Horticulture, a Rs 6500 crore industry.  Its fallout on the livelihoods of people has been far-reaching. Lakhs of people have lost jobs.

There are also lakhs of retailers who have been largely shut over the past twelve months. Similarly, the transporters, the handcart sellers and numerous other daily wage workers who have been rendered without sustainable livelihoods. For these sections of society,  Covid is the lesser threat than the fast depletion of their savings and the consequent prospect of hunger. But their plight is the least that the government seems bothered about. Decisions on their behalf are taken by the people in the administration who have secure comfortable jobs. They have little monetary help to offer to the poor but they are ever ready to go for lockdowns, as some kind of a magic wand to rid us of coronavirus. And that too despite the fact the lockdowns haven’t done much to ameliorate the situation. It is high time that the administration rethinks its approach to the pandemic and balances its efforts to arrest the spread of Covid with steps to protect the livelihoods.


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