Getting Back to Work

FOURTEEN months after the revocation of Article 370 that granted J&K semi-autonomous status under India’s constitution, Kashmir economy is in dire straits. According to an estimate by the Valley’s business bodies, the local economy has suffered a loss of more than Rs 40,000 crore. In response, the administration has belatedly announced a revival package of just Rs 1350 crore that would hardly help ameliorate the lot of the wrecked economy.

It is true, the economy of whole of the country is in pretty bad shape. India’s economic growth plunged dramatically by 22.8% in the April-June quarter of this year compared with the corresponding quarter of last year, This has crippled the economy rendering lakhs of people unemployed. And this is what just three months of lockdown has done to the country’s economy.

Now imagine the situation in Kashmir which has been in a state of siege for the past fourteen months. To make matters worse, the administration in Kashmir was a bit more exuberant about enforcing lockdown. It was much more strict with it than was warranted. Its rationale was that the lockdown is critical to bring down the number of infections and flatten the curve. And its reasoning appeared plausible under the circumstances. But as the example around the world would have one believe, lockdown has only reduced the infections not controlled them. And there is little chance that an extended lockdown will eliminate the infection.

At the same time, lockdown crushed the Valley’s economy, leaving thousands of people unemployed. It stopped the circulation of money and hit the marginalized sections very hard. The fallout of the lockdown has thus been far worse than that of the Covid-19 and on a much bigger scale. What was billed as a cure turned out to be worse than the disease

As things stand, we have moved past the stage where recourse to a lockdown is even an option. What the government can focus on instead is to strictly enforce the social distancing norms in public. And it can do so, considering the smaller population of Kashmir makes the infections more manageable than the densely populated states across India.

Kashmir economy is looking forward to a post-Coronavirus period and hopes it remains peaceful. The region has been through a long period of disruption. We can only hope that the world is able to get a handle on this deadly virus and get back to a normal life. But meanwhile it is time for us to cautiously get back to work.

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