Itís not only guns that are booming in Kashmir
25 March 2001
The Hindustan Times
Srinagar: The Kashmir Valley is booming. And itís not guns that are booming Whatís booming is the real estate business. Despite the militancy that has led to thousands of houses, shops and business centres being ravaged, real estate and property prices have been soaring. An informal survey of Srinagar's property business shows an eight-fold increase in prices in residential areas and more than 10 times in commercial areas over the past decade. In the posh residential areas of Raj Bagh and Jawahar Nagar, a piece of land that used to cost Rs 5 lakh in the pre-militancy days costs between Rs 35 and 40 lakh. A shop on Residency Road or Lal Chowk, the main commercial centres, is priced at Rs 60 to 70 lakh as against Rs 6-7 lakh earlier. By all standards, it is a staggering price. And that's what makes it big business in the Valley. The big money and the brisk pace of buying and selling have attracted a lot of people to the trade. Srinagar has more than 500 property dealers, brokers and sales agents. Officials in the property registration courts of Srinagar say they register 50-60 deals every day. The scene in the districts is no different. Even remote villages have seen a jump in prices. So what has led to the boom? "Easy money," says Mohammed Ashraf, an economics professor. While Islamabad has pumped in money to foster militancy, the Indian Government has done so to counter Pakistan's move. So almost overnight, the local population was flush with money. Real estate agents and businessmen were quick to latch on to this. Land and property that they had bought at dirt cheap prices from the fleeing and terrified Kashmiri Pandits, were sold at exorbitant rates.