KASHMIR is currently exhibiting a double burden of poverty exacerbated by the allied physical, social and psychological impacts of COVID-19 itself. Many estimates predict a worsening of the situation. A yearlong lockdown has placed Kashmir in a catch-22 situation where we’re having to choose between what might be considered “right” and what might be the “needful”. In any case, one can’t take a puritan position and advocate complete lockdowns to protect life. One has to find a strategic way out of the calamity Kashmir has been facing for over a year now.
Kashmir’s workforce thrives on the informal sector to a larger extent, yet the mitigation plan from the government has totally neglected this sector. In fact, the plight of day labourers in Kashmir is only the tip of a larger humanitarian crisis. Even migrant workers in Gulf have lost their livelihood. Small businesses based in Kashmir have suffered huge losses and have exhausted savings for further investments in business. It is the same with manufacturing labourers who work in factories, workshops or even at home. One of the many sectors which has incurred huge losses is the public transport sector, which has also faced the brunt of a yearlong crisis in Kashmir.
If the lock down continues even intermittently, these groups might have to skip meals, take loans or liquefy household items as their meagre income would not go long. Remittances, which contribute a lot to the GDP, have already experienced a sharp decline. Many expatriate workers who had temporarily travelled to the Gulf nations and Southeast Asia for skilled work, have returned in the past months and the government is under pressure to take them back. As remittances are one of the main source of Kashmir’s revenue, the decline has put a serious drain on the economy.
Additionally, India’s agriculture sector depends hugely on export orders, which have drastically decreased due to the rise of the novel coronavirus cases around the world, including in-country transportation. This has also affected agriculture based entrepreneurs and other stakeholders in the agrarian sector in Kashmir.
But hunger and poverty have not been the only implications of the lockdown. Many other social and psychological issues have crept up. The lock down is taking a heavy toll on women and children. There are multiple reports revealing increase in domestic violence cases against women and children especially in the urban areas. This increase in violence within domestic spaces has also put others like elderly, sick or differently abled people at risk.
It is quite baffling that little has been done or planned to address these issues strategically. Only NGOs and philanthropists are trying to do their best to reach out to as many people as possible. However, in the absence of policies and systematic plans from the government; scattered and individual good Samaritans can only do little to bring Kashmir out of the mess.
Ateeb Ahmad Parray
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