85 days since Article 370 move, Kashmir businesses suffer ₹10,000 crore hit

Kashmir issue, Kashmir shutdown, Article 370
While smaller shops opened doors in the morning and the evening, the main markets were shut in the Valley | PTI File

The business community in Kashmir has suffered losses to the tune of over ₹10,000 crore in the last three months due to the shutdown that followed the abrogation of Article 370, reports said.

It has been 85 days since the Centre revoked the special status of the northern state on August 5, which was followed by a complete shutdown in the Valley as main markets kept their shutters down. While smaller shops opened doors in the morning and the evening, the main markets were shut.

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Sheikh Ashiq, president of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), said while it was difficult to assess the nature of losses as the situation was not normal yet, the business community has received a serious jolt from which it was very difficult to recover.

“The running business losses for Kashmir region have crossed ₹10,000 crore and all sectors have been severely hit. It has been nearly three months now and yet the people are not doing business because of the prevailing situation. There has been some activity in the recent weeks, but the feedback that we are getting is that the business is dull,” Ashiq told news agency PTI.

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He identified the suspension of internet services as the main factor for the losses. “In today’s times, the basic need of any business is the internet which is missing on the ground. We have conveyed it to the governor’s administration that the businesses will suffer in Kashmir, the economy will weaken. Which will have huge consequences in the longer run,” he said.

Giving examples of several sectors, Ashiq said the IT sector was an upcoming sector and there are companies that were providing services in the US, in Europe and their business has been affected by the suspension of internet facilities.

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“If we take the handicraft sector, people associated with the trade receive orders in July-August and have to deliver the products around Christmas and New Year. When they can implement these orders, only then would they be served. There is no connectivity, so there were no orders resulting in loss of jobs to over 50,000 artisans and weavers,” he said.

The KCCI president said the government should own responsibility for the losses and take steps to mitigate the sufferings of the traders.

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“This is not about losses in business only. We will be facing technical issues like GST, online returns, whether you make business or not, we will face them and other issues like that. We are not falling under certain guidelines because we are missing them. So there should be a system for these sort of things for this region. We are disturbed even at the moment. Who will think about this? The government has to take the responsibility and it has to come out with the ways,” he said.

He said that the development of the valley has come to a standstill. “We had about ₹2,000 crore worth of development projects which have been pushed back because the workforce has left the valley. Now, we have to assure them, like tourists, and it will take time,” he said.

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Ashiq said it is the responsibility of the government to come out with various measures like certain packages for the business community in the prevailing circumstances. “They have not approached us yet, but they may in the coming month,” he said.

Asked about the detention of some business leaders, Ashiq said that it was unfortunate and believed that businesses in Kashmir valley should not be politicised. “Let business be a separate thing. This is what KCCI believes in. Let there be no politicisation,” he said.

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He said the KCCI has taken up the release of Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation (KTMF) president Mohammad Yasin Khan, whose mother passed away a few days ago. “At least, he should be released on humanitarian grounds,” he said.

Ashiq said the business community in Kashmir was not against outside investments in the valley and KCCI would always be at the forefront in inviting foreign investments.

“We are not against investments, but we have not been taken on board on anything about some people wanting to invest here. It was the government’s endeavour even before New Delhi took this decision (on Article 370) to get investments,” the KCCI president added.

(With inputs from agencies)