August 13, 2020 11:12 pm

Kashmir Inc: ‘Royals Enjoying Golf, Shopkeepers Behind Bars’

KO File Pic: Abid Bhat

‘Admin Running In Circles’ From Past Five Months: KCCI On Lockdown

Srinagar: The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) on Thursday slammed government over indefinite lockdown of business establishments in the Valley, especially Srinagar terming it as a serious infringement on the rights of the business community to earn a livelihood.

In a hard hitting statement issued here, a KCCI spokesperson said that despite full cooperation of public and the business community, the administration appeared to be running around in circles since the previous five months and seem oblivious to the fact that the business community of Kashmir is presently in the 13th month of a disruption which has wiped out enterprises and devastated the economy.

Comparing Kashmir’s Covid-19 situation with Mumbai, the KCCI spokesperson said that the India’s business capital has 5.35 lac COVID-19 cases and a daily average of 1700 new cases but despite it the state has entered unlock 3.0 phase.

Quoting figures, the KCCI spokesperson said the Mumbai has a population of over 2 crore living in an area of 603 sq km as compared to Srinagar’s population of around 17 lakhs in an area of 294 sq km; six times higher population density of 33,168 persons per sq km as compared to 5,782 persons per sq km in Srinagar.

Divulging further details, he said on August 3, the BMC has allowed all shops – essential and non-essential – to open all day except in containment zones. He said only theatres, food courts, in-house dining in restaurants, bars and gaming zones, street vendors and hawkers, continue to be prohibited.

“There are currently around 700 containment zones in Mumbai but unlike in Srinagar, they mostly consist of individual buildings and slums,” the KCCI spokesperson said.

“Here, the administration cannot be bothered to stop tweeting and identify individual houses. They simply barbwire-off entire neighbourhoods, if not the entire districts,” he added.

The KCCI spokesperson said that with six times the population density, gradual opening of business establishments and the population being allowed much more movement, the infection rate of around 2.65 percent not been seen as a very successful operation but speaks volumes about the intent of the Maharashtra Government to provide avenues of livelihood and it’s concern for the welfare of the public.

Hitting out at the government over the alleged grievous dereliction in proper utilisation of the earlier stages of lockdowns to strategize and prepare for the unlocking phase, the KCCI spokesperson said that DDMA funds have been spent on purchase of barriers despite Kashmir having the highest inventory of barriers including barbed wires available.

“The prices of critical medical equipment including oxygen concentrators has skyrocketed without any system of checks and balances in place. Butchers are hauled in for selling meat at meagerly higher prices but no attention is being paid to regulate the prices of these essentials and critical medical equipment,” the KCCI spokesperson said.

“Shopkeepers, pushed against the wall by the financial stress and in pursuit of bringing food to the family are being forced to operate like smugglers and reports of excessive harassment by various enforcement agencies are pouring in,” he added.

At the district levels, the KCCI spokesperson said “confusing” amendments have been made to the comprehensive guidelines issued by the worthy Chairman of the State Disaster Management Authority.

“A majority of the public has no idea of what the guidelines are. Banks were open throughout but no care was taken to monitor their functioning resulting in reports of largest COVID clusters emerging from Banks,” he said.

“The Royals have been enjoying their golf rounds without any break whereas the shopkeepers are put behind bars for seeking to feed their families out of frustration,” he added.

The KCCI spokesperson alleged that handpicked star restaurants frequented to by the “high and mighty” have been allowed to operate without any interruption whereas the lesser mortals are not allowed activities. Similarly, he said government offices are functioning at full strength despite daily movement of employees posing a risk whereas schools are not being allowed to operate on minimal rotational routine suggested by their respective associations.

“Our students stand deprived of quality education due to the unavailability of required internet speed, popularly referred to as 4G, providing which the Government of Jammu and Kashmir has been opposing tooth and nail in the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India,” the KCCI spokesperson said.

“What prevented the Government from providing broadband connections to the students or parents so that our children could also participate in the new normal is beyond comprehension,” he added.

Taking a dig at the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha who said Wednesday that it was time to introspect what Jammu and Kashmir has got in 70 years, the prominent business body said that it would be only fair to start with the current year and “we feel that the example of Government’s Golf Policy would suffice to illustrate the Governments benevolence on ground”.

“The Royal Springs Golf Course (RSGC) which had been closed till May was opened up for play in June. This coincided with the Government’s announcement of shifting of the Durbar to Srinagar and with the Royal who-is-who keen on its remaining open; it has been ensured that it remains open since,” the KCCI spokesperson said.

Taking pot shots at the District Magistrate, the spokesperson said that a majority of beleaguered 17 lacs people in Srinagar were caged behind fancy barriers when curfew was declared on the 4th and 5th of August

“The RSGC was open and jam packed. Apparently, the jurisdiction of the District Magistrate ends at the gates of RSGC,” the KCCI spokesperson said, while quickly adding that it was not against opening of a Golf Course. I

“It shows the Governments concern for keeping their senior functionaries and powerful elite in a mentally and physically fit condition. Had their salaries and privileges been stopped since 13 months and their families’ very survival under threat, we doubt that they would be hitting their shots as beautifully,” the KCCI spokesperson said.

“But at closer inspection, we realise that it is not Golf which is the issue, it is saying one thing and doing opposite. It is about speaking empowerment and acting to disempower,” he added.

KCCI, the spokesperson said has never shied away from appreciating decisions and policies of the Government wherever it merited appreciation and feel that as the voice of the business community it is equally an responsibility on our shoulders not to mince words while observing any departure in expectations from the Government.

The KCCI spokesperson also pointed out the grim picture of Kashmir Golf Club (KGC), calling it the poor country cousin of the RSGC. The spokesperson said that after spending Rs 40 Crore on its upgradation by the government’s bank, over 500 permanent members of the KGC have been sidelined with no say in the functioning of the Club, which remains closed.

“No tangible support has been provided to the business community who continue to struggle not for revival or growth but their very survival. Unemployment is at an all-time high with the tally of job losses in the current pandemic running into lacs, the KCCI spokesperson said.

“On the contrary, inconsiderate policies have pushed the business community against the wall which cry for urgent corrective measures and address the simmering desperation and deep frustration,” he added.

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