Uncertainity, Continuous bloodshed take toll on Kashmir businesses to dire straits

Surrounded by huge contingency of forces in a narrow lane, Bashir Ahmad Hakim sips tea outside his grocery shop at Malaratta neighbourhood of Nowhatta in the downtown, which is shut due to curfew like restriction imposed by the government. He is worried as in last two weeks his shop has remained closed for six days causing him business losses of over Rs 20,000.
Underneath the signboard of ‘Enn Provisional Store’ Hakim is holding a casual talk with passersby and sometimes with the personnel deployed in the area.
The worry of uncertainty which affects his business could be easily read on his face.
“Ah khudiya kar kasheeren peth raham (Oh Allah have mercy on Kashmiris). I yearn for the day when this bloodshed will end,” he laments.
“In last two weeks there have been six days when my shop remained closed causing business losses of Rs 20,000. I supply packaged milk and other eatables to scores of tea shops and restaurants surrounding Jamia Masjid, but as they remain closed there is no business, neither can I open shop due to these restrictions.”
Hakim says he is not able to pay back to his creditors and simultaneously provide to his family as there are not enough earnings. Frequent closure and restrictions have huge financial costs for the people like him living in the downtown.
Hakim wishes situation to improve so that he along with others could carry on business activities regularly as in other parts of the world.
Just 17 kilometers away from Hakim’s shop, in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal town, Nayeem Ahmad, a commerce graduate is cursing his fate. As in March he had invested his father’s hard earned Rs 20 lakh to start a hardware store in Ganderbal, but he is able to do little business due to the bad situation.
“Business across Kashmir is in distress,” Ahmad said, adding, continuous bloodshed, subsequent hartals and restrictions have made investments in businesses most difficult thing. “I am bleeding losses not because there is no clientele but my shops is often closed due to killings, which lead to shutdowns. No business can afford this kind of situation that too when it is at its infancy.”
“On the one side government forces kill us and on the other side shutdowns and restrictions deprive us from opportunities to earn livelihood,” he says, while adding that if the situation won’t improve he will leave Kashmir and search for a job outside.
Summing the economic scenario in Kashmir, spokesperson of Kashmir Traders and Manufactures Federation (KTMF), Farhan Kitab said, the ideal way to describe Kashmiri business community is of a person caught between the devil and the deep sea.
“In real sense businesses have not recovered from losses we incurred in 2014 great floods and then 2016 summer unrest further intensified these losses,” he said. “Post 2016 the situation is improving and there is uncertainty. Businessmen are shying away from investing as sales haven’t picked up.”