‘Kashmir economy suffered losses of 15,000 crore since August 5’

The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) has claimed, saying that this is just a “conservative estimate”
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Published on Dec 05, 2019 10:50 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | ByMir Ehsan

The economy in Kashmir has suffered losses of 15,000 crore since August 5, when the government abrogated Article 370, the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) has claimed, saying that this is just a “conservative estimate”. The handicraft, tourism and e-commerce sectors were the worst hit by the situation post the Centre’s decision. In an interview with Mir Ehsan, KCCI president Sheikh Ashiq Hussain said they will be coming up with a comprehensive data about the losses within a week.

Four months have passed since abrogation of Article 370. How do you see business activity in Kashmir now?

Businesses have witnessed huge losses and all sort of activities have come down in the Valley post August 5. Though shops and business establishments are open for sometime till afternoon and public transport is also plying to some extent, internet ban has severely affected business activities in the Valley.

The KCCI estimated a loss of 15,000 crore, while the government says the figures are not supported with facts and figures?

We have calculated the losses of 15,000 crore since August 5. In the coming days, the Chamber will be releasing a report in which we will give the sector-wise data of losses caused to the business community in Kashmir. We are ready to coordinate with any government appointed independent agency to substantiate the figures about losses due to clampdown and internet ban.

Which sectors were worst hit by the clampdown?

Every sector of business has been hit after the clampdown and internet ban in Kashmir since August 5. The handicraft, tourism, IT industry, e-commerce sectors and carpet industry were the worst hit.

Have job losses taken place in Kashmir after August 5?

The hotel and restaurant industry has seen more than 30,000 people losing their jobs. The e-commerce sector, which includes courier services for purchases made online, has seen 10,000 people losing their jobs. The hotel staff, houseboat owners, shikarawalas and transporters have been sitting idle or doing menial jobs. Weavers in Kashmir are now working as labourers to earn their livelihood.

The government says post revocation of Article 370, business activity will increase in J&K.

At present, businesses in the Valley are not doing well. Other businesses communities in the world are sharing hundred days of progressive reports and here we have to share our losses with people due to the situation in the Valley.

Is internet clampdown affecting business?

Many new businesses are completely dependent on the internet. Our internet penetration was more than other states. As per the figures of handicrafts industry, orders for carpets, shawls, paper machie has come down by 62% than the previous years. We used to have bulk orders on the New Year and Christmas. Now there are no orders because the traders don’t have any access to the internet. Many new businesses especially start-ups are completely dependent on social media but they have not been able to access it due to the communication gag. The government needs to do something about it.

Has anybody from the government approached the Chamber?

The problems faced by the business community have been brought to the notice of the concerned authorities, even at the highest level. We have conveyed them how things like internet ban are severely affecting business in the Valley.

Recently, two groups comprising civil society members, politicians, trade unions and Kisan leaders from different states met the Chamber members. What was their opinion?

A group of Kisan Sangrash Simiti and Concerned Citizens of India visited our office last month. They had a firsthand experience as they met people in Srinagar and other parts of the Valley. The group members were concerned about the situation and problems faced by the business community here. The losses caused by recent snowfall were also discussed. They shared our pain and promised that they will present a true picture of the losses faced by the business community, farmers and apple growers.

How can the situation improve in Kashmir?

Many members of the trade community in Kashmir have been detained. Four months have passed and they have-not been released yet. The government should release them to restore peace in Kashmir. There can be no development or business activity when people are facing an uncertainty.

Is the economy in J&K dependent on business community?

Our economy is completely based on the business community. We have only a few lakh of government employees in J&K and rest of our economy is completely dependent on different business sectors which are currently passing through very bad days.

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