The nearly 50-day-long turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir over the Amarnath land row has shattered the state’s economy at a time when it should have been booming.
Until mid-June, the state was witnessing an unprecedented tourist rush and investors were planning to put in Rs 5,000 crore in the hope of reaping dividends in the future.
Official statistics are not available but losses in the tourism and fruit industries and in the agriculture and banking sectors are estimated to have crossed Rs 10,000 crore.
“As far as the Jammu region is concerned, we suffered a loss of Rs 6,370 crore during the period of the agitation,” said Ram Sahai, chairman of the Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Sahai is not sure how much more loss lies ahead with no end to the turmoil in sight. Jammu’s tourism industry — banking mainly on the annual pilgrimage to the Vaishno Devi shrine that attracts 75 lakh people — has suffered a loss of Rs 1,890 crore.
Kashmir, which depends on tourism, horticulture and transport, was hoping that with the Srinagar airport going international and trains running within the Valley, it would witness growth. But the protests have caused tourists to flee. Traders are not getting adequate supplies because of traffic disruptions and the fruit trucks are not moving out of the Valley for fear of being attacked or looted.
“This is a grim situation. Our fruit industry is worth Rs 2,500 crore and by now our fruit growers have suffered a loss of Rs 1,000 crore,” said Mubeen Shah, president of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “Kashmir’s industry is not getting raw materials and its traders are sitting idle,” he added.
“The tourism industry is finished,” Shah said. “Our hotels had 100 per cent booking till September-end but now, there is not even a single guest with us. It is a big loss to the hotel industry and tourism as a whole,” echoed Kashmir-based hotelier Mushtaq Chhaya.
Fears of fruits rotting in the Valley were high. Bashir Ahmad Bashir, president of the All Valley Fruit Growers Association, lamented that the “economic blockade” would ruin them.