Srinagar: Trade in Kashmir is suffering due to crisis in the absence of any development, several trade leaders and businessmen told a parliamentary standing committee for transport, culture and tourism visiting the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir here on Thursday.
The 31-member delegation of parliamentarians, led by Rajya Sabha member T G Venkatesh, is visiting the region since Wednesday for three days to deliberate on road, tourism, travel and hospitality sectors in a first such visit of MPs since the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of J&K into two Union territories in August 2019.
The delegation of MPs met several key travel and tourism players who informed them that the region is facing immense stress due to two lockdowns imposed in the wake of abrogation of Article 370 and Covidd-19 pandemic.
Venkatesh, who is a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, however, said that the committee had no relation with the issue of Article 370.
“Unfortunately, no development has taken place here. We heard about the issues and demands made by various players. We will project it to Parliament,” he said.
The Rajya Sabha member added that with Article 370 gone, there is scope for development as businessmen from outside can invest money in Kashmir that will uplift locals, too.
Sheikh Ashiq, president of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI), a prominent trade body in Srinagar, told NewsClick that the traders informed the delegation about the “pathetic” situation faced by the business community in the region after the revocation of Article 370.
“We said that no development has happened and our businesses are striving for basic survival,” Ashiq said.
The KCCI pegged the economic losses suffered by business community in the region to over $5.3 billion following the abrogation of Article 370. Kashmir valley also witnessed a record drop in the arrival of tourists since then, which has pushed the tourism sector into massive losses.
Ashiq added that the business delegation told the MPs about the lack of infrastructure in the region which has compounded problems for the development.
“This is the only place in the world where a highway remains shut for days and nobody cares,” the committee was told.
Ashiq also said that the committee was told that the government has not been taken any pre-Budget feedback from the trade bodies which they believe is also an indicator of what the situation of the business community in Kashmir has been.
Earlier, on the first day of the visit, the delegation visited several popular tourist destinations in Srinagar, including Dachigham Wildlife Sanctuary and Dal lake. The member also paid obeisance at a sufi shrine at Hazratbal.
The other members of the team include Congress's K.C. Venugopal, Prasana Acharya from Biju Janata Dal (BJD), BJP's Sushil Kumar Modi amongst others Lok Sabha MPs including Congress's Anto Antony, BJP's Manoj Tiwari and Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Janata Dal United's (JDU) Dinesh Chandra Yadav.
The committee met the MP from Srinagar constituency Dr Farooq Abdullah, who is also the president of People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), as well as a delegation from the BJP.
The BJP delegation had also brought into notice the dilapidated state of Srinagar-Jammu highway and demanded a permanent resolution to the problem.
The MPs also met senior administrative officials, including from the district administration and heads of various key departments associated with trade, developmental projects and tourism in Srinagar. On Friday, the committee is expected to visit the popular ski-resort Gulmarg to assess tourism facilities in the winter destination before heading back to Delhi.