ANANTNAG: By-passed by the new, widened alignment of national highway, shopkeepers in some major towns of South Kashmir have been hit hard as their businesses witnessed a big slump.
Worst affected by the new arrangement are shopkeepers in Khannabal, Bijbehara in Anantnag district and Awantipora, Pampore in Pulwama district of south Kashmir.
The new alignment of highway was thrown open, fully, by last year end. There is a part of the highway which is still under construction but the shopkeepers in these towns are already facing the heat.
The affected businesses include eateries, petrol pumps, general stores, bakeries, meat shops, vegetable vendors, mechanics and other small time shops, which were mostly dependent on the commuters using the old national highway.
Javaid Ahmad, a meat-seller in Bijbehara, told Kashmir Reader that his business has drastically come down during the last few months. He says that the daily commuters travelling through Bijbehara used to be his regular customers.
“I used to slaughter ten to twelve animals a day and had nothing to spare in the evenings as I shut my shop,” Ahmad said, “I sold it all. I had not even purchased a freezer to store leftover meat because there was none.”
Now, Ahmad says, the number of animals (slaughtered) sold during a day has come down to two or at the most three and there is always some unsold meat.
“I have now purchased a deep freezer to store the meat further burning a hole in my, already tight, pocket,” Ahmad said.
Amir Shah, who runs an eatery in the outskirts of Bijbehara town, is facing similar issue though his customers were mainly tourists and Yatris, during the Yatra-season.
“They have diverted all the traffic to the new highway, be it yatris or tourists. We are facing extreme slump in business,” Shah says. “You can gauge the slump by the fact that we are selling not more than 10 meals a day, while earlier we sold around fifty to sixty meals.”
Ice cream parlours, tea stalls, everyone has a similar tale to share. Those whose businesses have been badly hampered are now contemplating to shut their shops and look for some other avenues.
“I used to earn around 1500 to 2000 rupees a day, fixing vehicles. But now I rarely get a vehicle to fix. Business has down spiraled and I have not been able to earn more than 500 a day since (opening of the new highway),” Rayees Ahmad, a motor mechanic in Awantipora town told Kashmir Reader.
In Pampore town, some general stores that in the recent years had thrived selling dry fruits to tourists and truck drivers have been turned into ordinary local shops.
No trucks or tourists are stopping by at their shops now and their business has come down dramatically.
Moreover, at least two places of “faith” in Awantipora, the Syed Hassan Mantaqui Shrine and the local Gurudwara, are also witnessing a slump in their donations.
“We had a fortnightly collection of around 12 to 13 Lack rupees in summers and 6 to 7 lakh in winters. Right now the collection is almost zero,” an employee of Syed Hassan Mantaqui Shrine told Kashmir Reader, on condition of anonymity.
Similarly the donations in the Grurudwara have also gone down.
Both the shrine and the Gurudwara have now purchased land along the new alignment of the highway. The shrine administration has already come up with a collection centre, while as the Gurudwara will set up one in near future.
The shopkeepers on the other hand have no choice – either bear the brunt or shut shops.