Shopkeepers suffering due to closure
SRINAGAR: Kashmir Haat is lying defunct as government has failed to develop it as a market for promotion of art and craft with local shopkeepers alleging poor maintenance and mismanagement by the handicrafts department.
The idea behind setting up the Kashmir Haat was to promote local art and craft besides providing a platform for the local artisans to showcase their talent and increase their livelihood. Given the current situation, the entire market is in ruins and has become a hub of immoral activities.
Local shopkeepers at government central market told Kashmir Reader that they had visited the office of director, handicrafts department with their grievances. But to their surprise, he had no idea of what the government central market was all about and told them “where is it?”
“The office of director is on other side and central market is here. And he has no idea of the central market. This is for the first time a director has been inducted into this department who has no knowledge or information about art and craft,”, they alleged.
Anguished over poor maintenance, the shopkeepers said that the concerned manager, handicrafts department never visits them. They also alleged that the funds released for the maintenance of the Haat were not properly utilised.
“Two fountains were constructed at the cost of lakhs of rupees. Both are now in dilapidated condition. There is nobody for their maintenance,” they added.
A local shopkeeper pleading anonymity told Kashmir Reader that nearly 40 shops were shifted to other building from where chief engineer’s office also functions. Following the attack in Karan Nagar, concertina wires were put on place near the gate, thereby restricting public movement.
“The main entrance of the Haat has been handed over to CRPF and has been closed. Out of 130 shops, only 20 shops are functioning today. Due to lack of facilities, shopkeepers left,” he said.
According to him, the area “has become a hub for drug addicts and other immoral activities”. He also alleged that employees were promoted and transferred to this department so that they could “retire as gazetted officials”.
An employee told Kashmir Reader that they tried their level best to keep the main entrance open but couldn’t, citing security concerns over civil secretariat and presence of CRPF in the Haat.
“I would leave office late in the evening. After Karan Nagar incident happened, it’s scary. And I have informed them that we are working here till late evening. And in response, they told us, when they will ask us to stop, we must stop. Otherwise there will be trouble,” he said.
When contacted, Nazir Ahmed Mir, Joint Director, Handicrafts Kashmir told Kashmir Reader that the shops inside the Haat were only opened during the exhibitions.
“We have already served notice to the shopkeepers who run shops inside the Haat. Once the activities will start, they will resume,” he said.
When asked about the Haat becoming a hub for immoral activities, he said that the reports were “absolutely true”. “However, the department has taken strict action against them and will take further action, when required,” he maintained.
According to Mir, following the attack in Karan Nagar, local police told them to close the gate in wake of security reasons. Otherwise, they never closed the gate.
Refuting allegations raised by shopkeepers, he said there were certain issues which the department was trying to overcome but they are hopeful that the market will remain open for six months this year.