Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Boiling Pot Called Kashmir - 5

Financial losses are mounting, but business leaders want India to solve a problem which can only be only resolved locally - two reports from FCCIK and KCCI

Unrest Costs Kashmir Rs 8,000 cr

Kashmir has 25,000 hotel rooms. Till June 80 per cent were occupied. Today almost all are vacant.

Kashmir has about 2 lakh small shopkeepers, street vendors and cart pullers. Most of them have remained indoors during shutdowns and curfews.

The past 80 days of violence and strife in Kashmir have not only cost 65 civilian lives but hurt the region's economy hard. Industry organisations have estimated that Jammu and Kashmir has lost about Rs 8,000 crore in these past 80 days.

Shakeel Qalandar, president of the Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCCIK) said the state has 4 lakh enterprises comprising of 12 lakh people. "Almost half of them are one-man or two-men enterprises such as shopkeepers, street vendors and cart pullers. All of them are directly affected by shutdowns and curfews," he said.

Qalandar said the state incurs a loss of about Rs 100 crore for a single day of shutdown or curfew. "That means we have lost about Rs 8,000 crore in these past 80 days of unrest."

The tourism industry, the backbone of the region's economy, has been hit the hardest.

"We have almost 1,000 hotels across Kashmir, with a capacity of 25,000 rooms, besides eateries, restaurants and coffee shops. All of them are vacant. We have not laid our staff off as yet but sent some of them back to their homes," said Siraj Ahmad, president of the Kashmir Hoteliers and Restaurants Association.

He said that if the situation does not improve hotels would be forced to close down like they did in the 1990s, the worst phase of militancy. "We will have only two alternatives then -- to lay off the staff or slash their salaries by almost half. For, once we close the hotels, we won't need the staff," he said.

The corporate sector has not been spared either. An employee with HDFC Standard Life Insurance said, "For the past three months business has been negligible. The company is now thinking of reducing the number of units in the Valley. A list of employees to be laid off has already been drawn up if the situation continues like this. Everybody is distressed."

Kashmir Business Losses Over Rs 21,000 cr in 85 Days

Srinagar: The 80-day period of shutdowns and curfews in the Valley has dented the economy of Kashmir by a whopping Rs 21,000-crore as the ongoing agitation has affected every sector including tourism, handicrafts and the nascent industries.

Several established and upstarting manufacturing companies, hotels and restaurants have laid off staff due to prolonged agitation which is showing no signs of ending.
"We do not have the exact data but lay-offs have taken place mostly in the hotel and restaurant sector and the travel trade," president of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), Nazir Ahmad Dar told media.

Dar said although reducing the number of employees in the hotel industry was a common practice during the winters due to lean tourist arrivals, this year the lay-offs have started at the peak of the tourism season in July.

Asked about the estimated losses suffered by the business community in Kashmir, the KCCI president said on an average the losses were to the tune of Rs 100 crores per day.

"Even on the limited days of normalcy we have had since June 11, there has been disturbance in some part or the other of the Valley ... it will be safe to put the cumulated losses so far at Rs 8,000 crore," he added.

Dar said business in the state will flourish only after permanent peace is established, which was only possible when "Government of India takes concrete steps to break the impasse".

Mushtaq Ahmad Chaya, the leading hotelier of Kashmir, said he was incurring a recurring loss of Rs 30 lakh per month due to the ongoing agitation.

"My salary bill per month is close to Rs 15 lakhs while another Rs 15 lakhs are incurred on overheads like maintaining the hotel properties, electricity bills, etc," he said.

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