Srinagar: One year has passed since the Centre declared Jammu & Kashmir a Union Territory, but it has been 12 months without any business, and the private sector and tourism are in a shambles.
5August this year was no different from the previous year. Strict lockdown of 48 hours with announcement of curfew in Srinagar kept people indoors. Though after a lot of criticism, the administration said that on 5 August that there would be only restrictions and no curfew, but the lockdown was severe and even a mainstream political leader like Omar Abdullah was not allowed to move to his father’s house on Gupkar Road. When the Centre announced abrogation of Article 370, it promised opening the floodgates of jobs, development and peace for the people of Kashmir. BJP had said that for the 70 years, the common people of Kashmir were denied the fruits of democracy and opportunities by this special status.
As many as 50,000 government jobs were announced in Parliament and it was promised that the process will be completed in three months. There was a promise of completing infrastructure developing projects of thousands of crores soon after the abrogation.
Jammu and Kashmir remained in lockdown, and a severe communication blockade dented even the economy at the local level in Kashmir valley. According to a KCCI report, the total losses since 5 August 2019 till date are over Rs 45,000 crore and job losses in a small place like Kashmir amount to 4.54 lakh.
There is no tourism for the past one year and this year too due to the pandemic, there are no signs of revival. Despite all claims by the administration, there is no financial and stimulus package for the tourism sector of Jammu and Kashmir.
Thousands of families, both in Jammu and Kashmir regions, have no means of income as the lockdown following abrogation of Article 370 was followed by the Covid lockdown and this resulted in no pilgrimage tourism either for Katra to Mata Vaishno Devi temple or to Kashmir for Amarnath yatra. The common refrain on the streets is that the Centre was doing nothing for the people’s economic revival.
“There is zero development, zero jobs and zero control on situation. In the past one year, they have been lying to people and the media in New Delhi has been unfair to us,” said Aqib Ahmad who was working with the private communication network before the clampdown of 5 August last year. In order to ascertain from the administration about the recruitment process of 50,000 jobs, no official was ready to share information with this reporter. One senior officer has been quoted by a New Delhi-based newspaper that so far 4,300 jobs have been filled. Similarly, the administration is refusing to share information about any financial package for the people of Kashmir who have been under clampdown and lockdown due to Covid-19 for one year.
Even the Covid-19 lockdown is being re-imposed after a few days, forcing shopkeepers and business establishments to close down. Despite all claims by the J&K administration about the achievements of the past one year, many officials, on the condition of anonymity, said that they could not show any visible change due to the pandemic. “It seems that the J&K administration is hiding behind Covid to cover up its failures. Local BJP leaders and sarpanches are being killed. There is no let-up in terrorism and we have no business,” a shopkeeper in Lal Chowk said.
While common people are angry with the Centre as they see no visible change on the ground, “half-truths by the bureaucracy” are only adding to their anger. But the BJP unit of Kashmir on 5August this year celebrated the first anniversary of the revocation of Article 370. While they were allowed to celebrate, NC, PDP, Congress and other mainstream political parties were not allowed to meet on the same day at the residence of Dr Farooq Abdullah. An angry Omar Abdullah took to Twitter and said that it was hypocrisy on the part of the government that they were allowing BJP activists to celebrate and blocking the road for their meeting.