No one ever thought that in 2020 something like this could happen, but it did and I see Kashmiri people giving tips to lots of people on how to handle the lockdown. For the last eight months we are under a lockdown and somewhere we have normalised it and now, being an expert, we are ready to help others.
But this is not just a lockdown or a dangerous virus, it is also an aggravation of the illness that plagues Kashmir’s economy. Prolonged shutdowns and continuous ban on the internet have resulted in huge economic loss. The major sectors which have been affected are handicrafts, hotels and restaurants, manufacturing, exports, Information Technology, transport, and tourism. There has been massive unemployment as a result in the valley.
According to the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI), the lockdown since August 5 last year has led to economic losses worth at least $1.5 billion (€1.35 billion) for the region. Many entrepreneurs in Kashmir have had to shut their business and the tourism industry, the region’s economic backbone, has been crippled. Borrowers from financial institutions have lost their capacity to fulfill their commitments and a substantial number of accounts are likely to turn bankrupt. The shutdown has affected everybody in Kashmir.
The economy of Kashmir took another blow on March 24 as the government implemented a 21-day after giving four hours’ notice before the order took effect at 12:01 a.m. The government imposed the most drastic curbs, confining people to their homes, and schools, universities, hotels, sports centres, restaurants, all retailers apart from pharmacies and groceries were closed across the country. People have been told to maintain a metre’s distance from each other and frequently wash hands with soap or use sanitisers.
The curbs are proving disastrous for many small businesses, street vendors, labourers, cab drivers, food outlets, and even big factories. People were already unemployed for the last 8 months and now they are almost in quarantine at home.
The people of Kashmir need all the support they can get. There is already the problem of no essentials in the market or high prices to contend with. Many people are not even able to get food and medicines. Indeed, many NGOs are doing great work in helping to provide food and basic necessities to those in need, but more of us need to help each other in this hour of crisis. We are all at risk, no matter who we are and what we do. If the economic conditions of people continue to go down, the infection rate may rise as people will not be able to follow the directions such as staying at home or maintaining social distance.
The writer is an advocate at J&K High Court, Srinagar. [email protected]