A year ago, on August 5, the Indian government scrapped the constitutional provisions that guaranteed autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir. The Modi government said that the intent behind the decision was to encourage development, create more job opportunities and end corruption and terrorism. What is the situation in the erstwhile state one year later?
In this interview, Mitali Mukherjee speaks to the former mayor of Srinagar and former minister of state of Jammu and Kashmir, Junaid Azim Mattu, of the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference.
The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), in a recent report, put economic losses in the Kashmir Valley in the last year at Rs 40,000 crore – That means the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI)’s loss estimate is about 11% of J&K’s economic output.
With Kashmir accounting for 50% of J&K’s economy (est), the biggest blow in terms of economic damage has been borne by the Valley.
Sectors like tourism and transport had been badly affected; the number of tourists in 2019 fell sharply compared to 2018 while the years 2020 saw a virtual standstill thanks to the dual challenges of a shaky situation in Kashmir and the COVID outbreak.
The bigger hit has been to horticulturists, who are struggling to ensure their produce (that has a short shelf-life) reaches other states in time. With frequent curfews and roads being blocked, the entire supply chain had been disrupted.
The Apple Industry is the backbone of Jammu and Kashmir’s economy. With a production of more than 2 million metric tons and a market size of Rs 10,000 crore, the Union territory accounts for 84% of the total production of the fruit in the country. More importantly, this industry provides employment to around 27% people in Jammu and Kashmir.
The former mayor of Srinagar said employment opportunities had nose-dived in the year gone by as small scale industries, handicrafts, tourism and horticulture had come to a grinding halt.
On the recent data around violent unrest, Mr Mattu said there were two ways of reading the data; while some believed a greater number of terrorists were being neutralised, the other way of reading the situation was that there seemed to be a steady increase in youth turning towards violence again, which is why a larger number needed to be neutralised.
He also said that with the previous months of internet blockade and given the state of communications now, it was near impossible to conduct any business online. The bigger impact had been on healthcare. Mr Mattu said Kashmir has one of the worst healthcare infrastructure facilities in the country and the lack of internet access had rendered accessing information, medical updates and support very difficult.
On the continued detention of PDP leader Ms Mehbooba Mufti and veteran Congress leader and former Union minister, Saifuddin Soz, Mattu said the decision was untenable – the central government seemed to be punishing those very leaders who had strived towards encouraging a democratic process of electing leaders and shunning pro-separatist leaders.