The security lockdown in Indian-administered Kashmir has been more than two months away and, due to which the life of the common man is facing severe difficulties, business activities are also stagnant.
Experts say the lockdown has caused more than $ 1 billion in economic losses in two months.
Mushtaq Chai is a leading businessman and owner of several hotels in Kashmir. He remembers the afternoon of August 2 when he received a ‘security advisory’ from the administration.
The note mentioned the threat of terrorism and said that the pilgrims should return as soon as possible after finishing their tour.
Mushtaq, like many others, took this advisory seriously.
Seven years ago, seven people were killed when militants attacked a Hindu pilgrimage coming from Amarnath Yatra two years ago. The cave of Amarnath in Anantnag district of Kashmir is considered a sacred place for Hindus.
Chai says this is not the first time that tourists and travelers have been asked to leave.
Soon the officers arrived to enforce the government order, and mushroom tea and their staff immediately arranged for the guests to leave.
Three days later, on August 5, the federal government abolished the special constitutional status of the valley and disconnected all communications here.
Two months later, conditions did not return to normal in the valley. Internet and mobile connections are still disconnected, public transport is not readily available and most businesses are closed.
Some of them are closed as a protest against the government, while some are closed because of the threat of attacks by militants against Indian rule.
In Srinagar, the shopkeepers wait for the customer and as soon as the customer arrives, they open the shop and close it immediately after leaving and then wait for the next customer.
One shopkeeper told the BBC that he was not happy with the government’s decision but was also angry with locals who would not allow him to open a business.
“How can I make a living without earning?”
Be it tourism or the carpet, everyone is affected
The area is also facing a shortage of skilled workers as more than four million people have migrated since the lockdown began. The streets are deserted and the tourist businesses closed, employing about seven million people.
According to the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, shutdowns have caused $ 1.4 billion in business losses in the area so far and thousands of jobs have been lost.
Mushtaq Chai says: ‘There are 3,000 hotels in the valley and all are empty. They have to pay off debts and meet daily expenses. ”
Only a few of their 125 staff are on the job. Often the staff could not come because of the lack of transport and fear. Tensions are on the rise in the area and many protests have taken place in the city.
However, after the government’s announcement that tourists will be allowed to visit on Thursday, conditions may improve in the coming days.
Not only did this lockdown hurt the hotel industry. Travel agent Javed Ahmad says, “The lack of internet means that 5,000 tourist agents have become useless.”
“The government says it should give jobs to the youth. We are young but unemployed. We have nothing to do with politics. We need jobs. ‘
Nearly a thousand hunters have also been left empty at the famous Dal Lake in Srinagar.
Hamid Wangno of the Kashmir House Boats Association says, “Every victim needs about $ 7,000 a year to care for them and for many this is the only source of income.”
Meanwhile, Sheikh Ashiq, president of the Chamber of Industry, says, “More than 50,000 jobs have been lost in the carpet industry alone.”
He said carpet makers usually take orders from July to September, especially from overseas, so they can complete the carpeting order by Christmas.
According to him, he could not contact the importers remotely with his own employees due to the disconnection of communication.
The famous apples of South Kashmir are still hanging on the trees and there is no tree breaker. Shops and cold stores are closed and the central market is empty. According to a local farmer, he did $ 197 million last year.
One local farmer, without giving his name, said: ‘It hurt so much to see the apples hanging on the trees that I stopped going to my garden.’
Journalist Masood Hussain says that ‘apple accounts for 12 to 15 per cent of Kashmir’s economy, but this year more than half the production has not gone down from the trees’.
“If this situation continues in October, it will have serious consequences.”