SRINAGAR: When the festival of Eid-ul-Azha arrived, the 3-km stretch of road from the TRC (Tourist Reception Centre) to Batamaloo used to be closed for the street market that sprung up on its sides. This year, it wasn’t. On Thursday, the day of Dyar-i-Arfa, two days before Eid, traffic continued to ply while the festival market stayed mostly idle and despondent.
According to traders, both of the street markets as well as of the showrooms, this is the fourth successive year since the 2014 floods that business ahead of Eid-ul-Azha has been disappointing.
Mohammad Yaseen Khan, president of the Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation (KTMF), one of the largest trade bodies in the Valley, told Kashmir Reader that markets witnessed little business activity on Eid again this year.
“On the eve of Eid-ul-Azha in 2014, there was no flow of money. It was the same in 2015 and 2016. This year is no different,” Yaseen said.
“This year, the reasons are demonetisation, no tourism, and GST,” he added.
Kashmir began to see a fall in business activities when the economy was hit badly by the 2014 floods. Its effect continued in 2015. When business was recovering in 2016, the economy suffered another blow in the massive unrest that followed Burhan Wani’s killing.
Last year, Yaseen said, business activity had recovered a bit during Eid-ul-Fitr, but it has now reached the same low ebb where it was after the 2014 floods.
“Garment stores, textile shops, foot wares – they have had no market this year again. The kind of rush we usually witnessed from fifteen days ahead of Eid, we are not seeing even now. We have not had even 15 percent of the routine business,” he said.
Along the same stretch of road, vendors as usual have erected their stalls, selling low-priced items. They, too, have few customers. Zahoor Ahmad, a vendor at Amira Kadal Bridge, said that he had half the number of customers today of what he used to have on normal days.
“It was really strange to see why there was no business on this day, which used to a bumper day for us before 2014,” he said.
Mushtaq Ahmad Khan, a textile businessman in the old city, supplies all types of cloth to stores across Kashmir. He told Kashmir Reader that there were no takers for textiles on this year’s festival.
“Markets have taken a U-turn,” he said, blaming demonetisation for affecting the functioning of the market.
Faiz Bakshim, general secretary of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that for the fourth consecutive year, there was no enthusiasm for business in people.
“GST and demonetisation are responsible,” he said. “The government claimed that GST will reduce rates, but the claims proved hollow. Only God can save us.”
Sellers of mutton, however, were still hopeful of good business on the day of Arfa, a day ahead of Eid.
An office bearer of the mutton dealers association, Manzoor Kanoon, told Kashmir Reader that there is stock left but he is pitching his hopes on Arfa.