‘Kashmir in 13th month of disruption that wiped out enterprises, devastated economy’
Srinagar: The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) on Thursday termed the continuous lockdown of business establishments in the valley, especially in Srinagar, as a “serious infringement on the rights of the business community to earn a livelihood”.
Spokesperson of the KCCI said in a statement that despite full cooperation extended by the general public and the business community, the administration appeared to be “running around in circles for the previous five months and seems oblivious to the fact that the business community of Kashmir is presently in the 13th month of a disruption which has wiped out enterprises and devastated the economy”.
The chamber questioned the intent of the Srinagar district administration towards the business community while comparing Srinagar with Mumbai in terms of population density.
Despite having recorded over 5 lakh infections and a six times higher population density than Srinagar, Mumbai has already entered the Unlock 3 stage wherein the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has allowed all essential and non-essential business establishments to open all day except in containment zones, the KCCI said.
“Only theatres, food courts, in-house dining in restaurants, bars and gaming zones, street vendors and hawkers continue to be prohibited,” it added.
Back home in Srinagar, there has been a “grievous dereliction in proper utilisation of the earlier stages of lockdowns to strategise and prepare for the unlocking phase,” the chamber alleged.
It further alleged that DDMA funds had been “spent on purchase of barriers despite Kashmir having the highest inventory of barriers including barbed wires available”.
The chamber said that the prices of critical medical equipment including Oxygen Concentrators have skyrocketed without any checks and balances in place. While butchers are hauled in for selling meat at higher prices, no attention is paid to regulate the prices of these essential medical equipment, the KCCI lamented.
The chamber alleged that shopkeepers were being pushed against the wall by the financial stress and “in pursuit of bringing food to the family are being forced to operate like smugglers and reports of excessive harassment by various enforcement agencies are pouring in”.
The KCCI said that at the district level also, “confusing amendments” have been made to the comprehensive guidelines issued by the Chief Secretary of J&K, who is the Chairman of the State Disaster Management Authority.
It said that a majority of the public had no idea of what the guidelines were.
The chamber questioned the government’s decision to open the Royal Springs Golf Course (RSGC) amid the prevailing pandemic.
It said the Golf Course, which had been closed till May, was opened in June, which coincided with the government’s announcement of shifting of the Darbar to Srinagar.
“The royals have been enjoying their golf rounds without any break, but the shopkeepers are put behind bars for seeking to feed their families,” it rued.
The chamber also alleged that “handpicked star restaurants frequented to by the high and mighty have been allowed to operate without any interruption”.
“Similarly, government offices are functioning at full strength despite daily movement of employees posing a risk whereas schools are not being allowed to operate on minimal rotational routine suggested by their respective associations,” it added.
The KCCI said that due to the continuous closure of schools, students stand deprived of quality education due to the ban on 4G internet, “providing which the government of Jammu and Kashmir has been opposing tooth and nail in the Supreme Court of India”.
“What prevented the government from providing broadband connections to the students or parents so that our children could also participate in the new normal is beyond comprehension,” questioned the chamber.
The chamber said that at a time when unemployment is at an all-time high, the “inconsiderate policies have pushed the business community against the wall which cry for urgent corrective measures and address the simmering desperation and deep frustration”.