April 2018 News

Kashmir's Economy Lost Rs 4000 Cr In 6 Years Due To Internet Shutdown

27 April 2018
Greater Kashmir
Saqib Malik

Srinagar: Thanks to the frequent shutdown of the internet service in the Kashmir valley, by the government to curb protest demonstrations against the state, its economy has recorded a loss of nearly Rs 4000 crore in the last six years. Just last year alone the economy of Kashmir suffered a loss of almost 1800 crore as the government cut off the service 34 times. These figures were arrived at by the New Delhi-based think tank International Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER). It looked at the period between 2012 and 2017 to analyse how the disruption was dampening economic activity of the businesses that had come to rely heavily on the internet. Although the findings of the study said the most adversely hit sectors were e-commerce and freelancing, it also concluded that tourism, IT services, press and news media, banking, education, healthcare, manufacturing and heavy industries have also been hit by internet shutdown. According to the study in 2012 the government shut down the internet three time that resulted in the loss of Rs 23 crore while as the loss caused by five disruptions in 2013 was Rs 1088 crore. The ICRIER study says losses caused by shutdown in 2014 could not be estimated. The internet suspension during 2015 caused the Valley Rs 423 crore losses while as in 2016, the year of longest anti-India protest demonstrations the loss to the economy was around Rs 655 crore because internet was cut off for a long time. The people who bore the brunt of the shutdown were the internet start-ups in the Kashmir valley who struggled to meet with the demands from their customers. Muheet Mehraj, who runs an e-commerce venture Kashmir Box, said: 'Whenever internet is suspended, we are in complete disarray. It is not just losses but negative publicity of our business as we are not able to update our customers,' said Mehraj. According to him the frequent internet suspension forced him to set-up an office in Delhi. 'I had to bear the operational costs but it was important to have this office as I don't trust internet connectivity in Kashmir anymore,' he said. The study says owing to frequent shutdowns, approximately 80 percent of the IT entrepreneurs in Srinagar shifted base to other cities like Delhi-NCR and Bangalore. The impact of the internet shutdown on local trade wasn't insignificant. 'Average daily sales value is Rs 30,000-60,000 while transactions through credit and debit cards are 60-70 per cent. Card transactions were majorly affected during internet shutdowns,' the study pointed out. It also highlighted the adverse impact on education, tourism and travel trade sectors. 'Travel e-commerce sites like Make My Trip would have also worked very well in Kashmir but internet shutdowns has been a dampener. There are some e-commerce start-ups such as Kashmir Crafts in Delhi and Kashmir Box in Bombay. While their sourcing is localized, the main operations are not based out of Srinagar to avoid disruptions in Internet services,' the study says. It wasn't just trade and commerce that took a hit while the internet remained cut off. Journalists working out of Kashmir also struggled to function during the lack of internet service. Waseem Khalid, a Srinagar-based freelance journalist said 'Journalists and freelancers are affected as they are unable to submit their work in a timely manner. During a shutdown, a journo has to send article in parts through text messages and sometimes narrating over the phone for another person to type,' he said.