Economic Distress in Indian Occupied Kashmir
Since Indian locked-down of Kashmir, not only Kashmiris lives have become miserable also their economy. Shops are shut. There is no connection with the outside world. A confusing economic environment has further added to the misery of besieged Kashmiris. With the revocation of Article 370 and 35-A on 5 August 2019, IOK’s political as well as financial landscape has witnessed a cataclysm gripped with fear, uncertainty, protests and fomenting demand for self-determination. Due to continued lockdown of the valley, general economy of the IOK has been affected badly.
Recently two fact finding reports, one prepared by Advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan and Prof Nandini Sundar and second by five member women team of eminent activists, journalists and civil society members, have exposed many untold stories about the miseries, agonies and hardships of the Kashmiri people. It is revealed by one report that economic situation of Jammu (which is not witnessing the iron clamped lockdown like the Valley due to Hindu population), is also worst hit. One report claims that, “Trade is hampered, work is not happening. Banks are not functioning. 60% of Jammu’s trade is with Kashmir, so that is affected”. People in business industry stated that INR 35,000 crore businesses in Jammu had come to a standstill. Earlier 500 trucks at the railway station “would have a trip a day” but now it has reduced to “one trip in four days”. Another businessman pointed out that usually during the Dussehra (Hindu festival) season; the wholesale market and mandi are “so crowded there’s no place to stand”. “Now it’s desolate”.
As per Indian government’s statistics (quoted by Indian Brand Equity Foundation-IBEF), Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) economy is primarily services based and agriculture-oriented. The area is known for its horticulture industry with a production of fruits around 3.61 million metric tonnes in 2018-19 seasons. According to Indian Economic Survey 2017, a land of 3.4 lakh hectares is under fruit cultivation of which 48% is used to grow apples and is the primary source of livelihood for about 34 lakhs people or about seven lakh families.
Kashmir produces two-thirds of India’s apples. As per the statistics, tourism is another flourishing economy of the region with 14.32 million in 2017 out of which 14.24 million were domestic tourists and 79.77 thousand were foreign tourists. IOK’s handicrafts are also world famous and the traditional handicraft industry contributes to the economy of the region through small-scale and cottage industries such as carpet weaving, silks, shawls, basketry, pottery, copper and silverware, papier-mâché and walnut wood. Reportedly, the cottage handicrafts industry provides direct and gainful employment to around 340,000 artisans and exports from IOK stood at US$ 178.26 million during 2018-19 (up to Feb 19). As per statistics of Indian economy official document, IOK is placed at 22 number with over 1.2 lac crores INR contribution to the India’s national economy having an estimated 200.87 lac crores volume.
Reportedly, Apple trade has been hit badly. Last year, during the apple season, business worth INR 7,000 crore was conducted. Indian govt announced to buy fruit worth Rs 8,600 crores from Srinagar, but the million dollar question is “How will this fruit get to the mandi? When individuals aren’t [able to] pluck fruit from their orchards because of the overall climate of fear?” As uncertainty looming large, apple orchardists in Kashmir are now sun-drying the fallen apples before the harvesting season picks up. According to experts, drying apples is a futile exercise and has no market value but can be used as fodder for animals for the forthcoming winters. It may be mentioned that in the aftermath of 27 Feb 2019 Pulwama incident, Kashmiri Orchardists had been facing huge losses in the sector due to highway ban. In addition, the closure of the Jammu-Srinagar highway due to inclement weather resulted in heavy losses for the orchardists. Reportedly, the closure of the highway brought about Rs 2,500 crore in losses to the orchardists in the Valley alone. According to a top revenue official posted in South Kashmir, around 700 villages in the region have been badly affected as far as the horticulture produce is concerned. Moreover, tourism being considered as a backbone of IOK economy is going through its one of its worst phases yet. Finding no income in the last 70 days, reportedly, hotel and houseboat owners are laying off their staffers. Reportedly, there are more than 1,200 houseboats registered in Srinagar with each houseboat having two helpers. 90% of the workers on these houseboats have lost their jobs.
Reportedly, there are about 35,000 registered maxi-cabs in IOK region. As per Ghulam Nabi Pandaw (President of the maxi cab taxi stand union), cab drivers have lost their income because of the shutdown. Ironically, 35,000 families are depending upon Cab related income. Cab drivers also complain about outstanding bank installments due to continued shutdown.
Therefore, it is need of the hour that international and regional media start highlighting the economic plight of Kashmiris because of Indian occupation. Remarks of the report of Nitya Ramakrishnan/ Nandini Sundar merit attention of international community as well. It is admitted in the report that Kashmiris are resisting the Centre through satyagraha or non-violent civil disobedience. There is some societal coercion, but by and large, this is entirely voluntary. This is not happening on the direction of militants, contrary to the advertisements now being run by government. Almost every single person wanted azadi. The report also finds a comparison of current situation with the one after the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in 2016. The report analyzes that “The major differences are that first, now there is no leadership and people are acting on their own, second, the resistance is across the Valley (earlier it was mostly South Kashmir), and third, even those who were earlier with the Indian government are now completely alienated.”
As Indian deep state continue with the prolonged socio-economic strangulation (a new form of the holocaust) of innocent Kashmiri people, questions may be posed to the world communities that how many casualties are needed to prick their conscience. Over 80 lakhs Kashmiri continue to be caged in world’s largest concentration camp known as IOK. Pakistan is standing with Kashmiris in these testing times, no matter what. It is not the first time, but; Pakistan has always been ready to stand by the side of brave Kashmiris of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK).India must realize that the youth of Kashmir is now awakened and is eager to react to the Indian suppressive acts with sacrifices. However, Indian suppressive attempts now stand completely exposed as Indian media is accepting that local Kashmiri youth are up against them. International community should also step up for urgent action against Indian oppression in the Valley.