Kashmir: Economy Of Hope

31 December 2015
Greater Kashmir
Mukeet Akmali

Srinagar: January 2015, was the month when trade and business community in Kashmir was gearing for an uphill task of recuperating from the devastation caused by September floods of 2014. The situation was difficult as there was no elected government in place and people were yet to come out of the collective shock. Then came the slogan of 'Change' and with it the business community tied their future. There was a hope that the Change would be for the betterment and would bring rehabilitation of flood affected traders who as per the government estimates had incurred losses of thousands of crores of rupees. Come March, the 'unlikely' alliance of PDP and BJP took over the reins of power. The notion was that the alliance headed by PDP was forged for mainly 'getting substantial rehabilitation package from the centre government.' Month after month passed and there was no sign of any package. For the first time traders hit the roads seeking rehabilitation as their business had nosedived. Still there was no sign of 'package'. Hartals which are synonyms with the Separatist leadership in Kashmir were for the first time used by the trade bodies as a weapon to pressurize government. At one point of the time, strike call given by the business bodies outnumbered that of Separatists. Then came the month of November, amid all the din about rehabilitation, all attention shifted towards the visit of Prime Minister, Narender Modi who announced Rs 80,000 crore package. Upon post-mortem of this package, the business community termed it as a ' cruel joke' as they could find nothing substantial for them. After much struggle, the business community in Kashmir felt that they were left to fend for themselves. The package had only Rs 800 crore for them, whereas the traders claimed their losses to be in billions of rupees. The winters arrived with its trademark power shortage that further troubled the business community. As per the Industry estimates Kashmir's industrial output has gone down by over 50 percent due to the unscheduled power cuts. Amidst all this, the business community in Kashmir took another rebellious stand by boycotting the annual ritual of pre-budget meetings with state finance minister. At the end of the 2015, the Kashmir's economy is still in doldrums as the liquidity crisis in the market is acting as a major roadblock for businesses to flourish. Despite all pomp and show regarding tourism, the government failed to remove negative impact of 'media channels which portrayed downpour in the month of March as another flood' and Kashmir received modest number of tourists in the year. On the other hand, the drive by the Commercial Taxes Department to increase tax base is being termed by the business community as 'revival of Inspector Raj' While there were disappointments for businesses in general, the thought of bright future has kept the hope and strength alive. It is the resilience which has given courage to the business community in Kashmir who despite working in the state that is ranked 'worst states in India to do business' continue to struggle, toil and ultimately find their way out.