Srinagar: As the administration in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir is busy preparing for the much-hyped global investors’ summit, trade leaders in the region say they are “bleeding due to the economic losses” aggravated since August last year.
“We took several delegations to meet the government officials including the Lt. Governor, but nothing has come out so far. Everyone is claiming development is happening, but we are bleeding in the name of development,” president of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI) Sheikh Ashiq said.
The traders are also complaining that economic losses suffered by the businesses in the region due to severe clampdown since August have put them at risk. “We are being targeted by financial institutions. It is being done to merely harass the business community,” leading businessman Rouf Punjabi said.
According to the chamber, the business fraternity in the region says that they need a breathing space to recover from the economic losses faced in the last six months to be able to pay their financial debts. Businesses in Kashmir have suffered massive economic losses since 2008 when a massive agitation erupted in the erstwhile state against a land transfer order to Sri Amarnath Shrine Board which resulted in a summer-long shutdown in the region.
In 2010, another summer-long agitation hit the region which further deteriorated the businesses, which was followed by 2014 floods. The trader and commerce in the region faced another dent in 2016 when people protested for another summer following the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani.
“We have reached saturation due to the multiple crisis situations. We are not demanding a waiver, just a little time. The government and institutions need to understand that we are not willful defaulters, but circumstantial defaulters,” another trader leader Sheikh Feroz said.
Earlier, in February, over 20 trade bodies issued a joint statement urging banks to be “humble and compassionate while making recoveries”. “We owe you money not respect and honor,” the statement said, making a plea that the families of the traders should not be harassed.
“The financial institutions are involving police personnel to raid homes of businessmen which is an unnecessary harassment,” Rouf said.
Ashraf Mir of the Federation Chamber of Industries in Kashmir said the biggest blow to the trader and commerce came during the ongoing crisis when the government issued an advisory to tourists and non-locals to leave the region in August last year as the government moved to abrogate Article 370. “Most of the workers left around that time and it created a perception issue which is difficult to manage now,” Mir said.
While the traders in the region are grappling with uncertainty, the government is currently conducting various roadshows across several cities in the country wooing traders to invest in Jammu and Kashmir. The global investors’ summit is expected to be held in the two capital cities of Jammu and Srinagar for which the administration has already identified over 6,000 acres of land to woo the investors.
Even as the traders in Kashmir are looking forward to the summit, they claim, there is “confusion” in this regard with no clear road-map. The trade leaders say they are yet to receive any communication in this regard. “We welcome such an initiative, but at the same time, it is unfair to bring more investors when those who have already invested are suffering from massive capital erosion,” industrialist Shahid Kamili said.
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