What is in the offing? Kashmir traders mulling strategy to save distressed economy

What is in the offing? Kashmir traders mulling strategy to save distressed economy

SRINAGAR: Amid perceptions of another public unrest looming large as Kashmir continues to be at the tipping point, the traders and industrialists are mulling strategy to cruise through the possible situation even as a section of the business class is pessimistic about the relevance of any strategy and its implementation amid any public disorder.
An estimate worked out the state government put the cumulative loss to the Valley’s economy during the 2016 summer agitation triggered by the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani at a whopping Rs 16,000 crore. The traders, hoteliers, transporters and restaurant owners were the most hit as the Valley remained shut for more than five months. A close to 100 civilians were killed and 12,000 others were injured during the uprising.
With back to back encounters triggering massive public resentment in several localities of the Valley, the traders suspect that another uprising was in offing. They have joined heads to find out a strategy to offset the impact of supposed uprising on the badly hit economy.
Mohammad Yaseen Khan, President Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation (KTMF), an organization of about 64,000 traders in the Valley told Kashmir Reader that meeting with various stakeholders has started to explore the strategy as to how further losses could be prevented in case there was repetition of what happened in 2016 summer.
“We are at the tipping point at a time when business season has begun to take off. At this point in time, the  businessmen generally begin to make strategy for the first quarter of the year but unfortunately situation is not conducive. The business community is sceptical,” Khan said.
In this situation, Khan said, the KTMF has begun to meet various stakeholders. “We are on it and have drafted a preliminary strategy. This time we are reviewing it. And at a time when things would seem to be going astray we will go public about it. We are just examining the situation,” he said.
Javaid Burza, President Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Owners Federation, an organization of 40 tourism players said that the effect of another business loss is looming large. “The tourists are preferring to visit the neighbouring states,” he said adding all marketing efforts to bring tourist back to Kashmir have failed because of the prevailing situation in the valley.
“We have no bookings this time. Last year, except for the first quarter, was bad. We either had to pay from our savings or raised loans to pay the salaries of our employees,” Burza said. “The situation does not appear to be better this time. If the situation turns an ugly turn, our financial situation would find it unaffordable. We have to shut our business otherwise,” Burza said.
During the first two and a half months of 2017, nearly eight civilians were killed and 29 combatants were neutralized by the government forces. The civilians lost their lives while attempting to move towards the encounter sites to help combatants flee.
Khan and Burza admit that their strategies would not work until there is change on the ground level and that is possible only when the Indian government readies to initiate efforts to resolve the Kashmir dispute. The engagement of local people and Pakistan is imperatives, they said.
“During the uprising the government repeatedly said that Kashmir dispute would be resolved through a process of dialogue but practically nothing has been done. “This indifference on part of the Indian government is keeping the Kashmir at boiling point. The youngsters are losing their lives while the economy perpetually  bleeds,” Khan said.
Burza said the onus lies on the Indian government to prevent or allow another uprising. “If there is another turbulent summer, none other than the government of India would be responsible for it. The government does not seem to be interested in resolving the long pending dispute,” Burza said.
Mushtaq Wani, President Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that deliberations have been going on within the trading community but they have not reached any conclusion. “It is a complex issue involving a plethora of issues. We are deliberating and hopefully find a way forward,” Wani said.

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