Srinagar: Cricket bat manufacturers in the Kashmir valley have been facing their worst business period ever in the last few years, with this summer’s attack on the Amarnath Yatra pilgrims only exacerbating their woes.
At least eight Yatris were killed and more than thirty were left injured after one of their buses got caught in crossfire between militants and armed forces on July 10 in Battengoo area of Anantnag district.
Although the restriction was previously in place, no Yatra vehicle was allowed to stop along the Srinagar-Anantnag highway following the attack, which has hit the sale of cricket bats to a record low.
The despair in the cricket bat manufacturing industry, based predominantly in Sangam and Halmulla villages along the national highway, commenced with the havoc wrecked by the floods of 2014.
“The government is yet to compensate us for the losses we incurred during the floods. We were trying to overcome the devastation they caused on our own when the unrest of 2016 hit us,” Bat Manufacturers Association president Ghulam Qadir Bhat told Kashmir Reader.
He said that the industry was trying again to somehow limp back this year, but the deaths of the Yatris further deepened their crisis.
Bhat runs a bat manufacturing unit, Famous Sports, in Sangam area and says sales in his own unit plunged to a meagre five to ten per cent of what they used to be during the Amarnath Yatra.
“Every unit from Sangam to Awantipora used to sell cricket bats worth Rs 20-30,000 each day. After the attack on the Yatra, sales plunged to under Rs 3,000 on certain days and no sale on most days,” Bhat said.
Other unit holders operating in the area echo what Bhat said.
Mudassir Dar of Good Luck Sports told Kashmir Reader that his sales have plunged from Rs 20,000 per day to almost zero.
“During that time, the government forces did not allow any Yatris, or for that matter tourists, to make a halt near our shops. I have not sold a single bat during the Yatra period this year,” Mudassir said. The manufacturers say that tourists used to pour in after the Yatra with the ‘season’ stretching up to around mid-October.
“There however are no tourists coming to the Valley right now, or so we feel. We don’t get any customers at all these days,” said Shakeel Dar of Frontline Sports.
Kashmir Reader reported in May how tourist inflow had already nosedived by a whopping 55 per cent during the first few months of 2017, and the trend has continued.
Dar says that many of the bat manufacturers are in no position to even buy raw material as of now.
“I am a small-time bat maker. You have already noted the plight of the bigger units, you can only imagine what units like mine must be going through,” he said.
For now, the manufacturers say, they are praying for an extended tourist season, which seems quite unlikely given the tourism sector’s present scenario.