Lockdown drags Kashmir economy to brink of collapse

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MUHAMMAD ASHRAF WANI

ISLAMABAD, Jul 30 (APP):The military siege, lockdown and strict curfews imposed by India in Illegally Occupied state of Jammu and Kashmir to strengthen its occupation by military might has badly affected all spheres of life in this open prison of the world. The concepts of human rights, political freedom, freedom of expression and so many other related notions have become a far-fetched dream for the people of Kashmir. The people are forced to live under such a condition where even breathing freely has become a challenging task. Among all this turmoil, the economy of Kashmir was struggling hard for survival.

The illegal measures taken by Indian on August 5, 2019 by snatching the special status of Kashmir state through revocation of Article 370 and 35 A and the succeeding illegal measures of complete lockdown and strict curfew jolted the already ailing economy of the occupied state and dragged it to brink of collapse. The situation was further aggravated with the imposition of another lockdown in the name of COVID-19. In other words Kashmir is experiencing lockdown within lockdown, a unique of its kind, since August last year.

According to survey conducted by Kashmir media service, the illegally Occupied Kashmir has been witnessing a complete breakdown of economy due to imposition of military siege and internet clampdown by India in the territory since August 5, last year. The economy suffered a loss to the tune of $2.1 billion since India illegally scrapped the special status of the state. The post August 5, 2019 moves by India have proved economic nightmare for the Kashmiri people. In addition, the restrictions imposed in the guise of COVID-19 lockdown also incurred a great loss to economy.

When India entered the COVID-19 lockdown on March 25, the economy of the state was still calculating the losses it had incurred on account of the unprecedented lockdown and communication blockade that the Indian government imposed on August 5. According to an official report by the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI), the Kashmir economy lost over Rs 180 billion in the 120 days after August 5, 2019. This, added to estimated losses of another Rs 132 billion during the 49 days of the COVID-19 lockdown till May 12, brought the cumulative loss to J&K’s economy to a staggering Rs 312 billion or around 17% of state’s GDP.

The unemployment rate has also risen in the occupied Kashmir as according to the survey, over 496,000 Kashmiris lost their job as India was engaged in systematic destruction of the Kashmiris’ economy. Currently, the horticulture sector is in distress, tourism is in shambles. It is for the first time in the past 70 years that rural Kashmir is also facing such a great degree of economic slowdown. The apples industry in Kashmir, worth 80 billion (Indian) rupees which contributes eight percent of state’s GDP, has been worst affected. Since August 5, this sector had suffered a lot as Kashmiris could not properly export the fruit to the Indian states, the only destination they have to sell their fruit. Due to the military siege and lockdown, the Indian government did not allow transportation of fruits, hence hundreds of thousands of tons fruits were perished and the fruit growers of Kashmir had to suffer. Secondly, this sector is directly dependent on information technology and e-commerce. Since there has been complete communication lockdown after August 5, the fruit industry was badly affected.

Likewise, the tourism industry virtually came to standstill as Kashmir has been completely cut off from the rest of the world owing to military siege and double lockdown followed by related restrictions. Tourism could be bifurcated into many related sectors for instance tour operators (inbound and outbound), house boats, hotels, tourist transport, shikaras, adventure sports and other allied sectors. Now there are no tourists visiting the different recreational places including Dal Lake, Pahalgam, Gulmargand so many other resorts, hence the related business has been badly affected. According to Telegraph report, in 2018, 850,000 tourists visited the state, generating £862 million, with 450,000 Kashmiris dependent on the industry for their livelihoods. However, due to the military siege and lockdown tourists could not come to Kashmir.

Same is the situation of other businesses, continued military siege, double lockdowns, day-to-day curfews has virtually everything stand still in occupied Kashmir, hence dragging the economy to the brink of collapse.  India has been trying its best to damage economy of the state for implementing its own nefarious designs, which have been exposed after August illegal measures. The focus of all these measures is to bring about demographic changes in the state and transform the Muslim Majority into the minority by accommodating Hindus, particularly extremists in the state through new domicile law. The agenda is clear and that is hegemonic designs to impose long desired Hinduvta agenda in Kashmir.