The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Thursday termed the continuous lockdown of business establishments in the valley especially Srinagar as a “serious infringement on the rights of the business community to earn a livelihood”.
Spokesperson of the KCCI said in a statement that despite full cooperation extended by the general public and the business community, the administration appeared to be “running around in circles since the previous five months and seems oblivious to the fact that the business community of Kashmir is presently in the 13th month of a disruption which has wiped out enterprises and devastated the economy”.
The Chamber questioned the intent of the Srinagar district administration towards providing livelihood opportunities to the business community while comparing Srinagar with Mumbai city in terms of population density.
Despite having recorded over five lakh infections and a six times higher population density than Srinagar, Mumbai has already entered the Unlock 3 stage wherein the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has allowed all essential and non-essential business establishments to open all day except in containment zones, the KCCI said.
Back home in Srinagar, there has been a “grievous dereliction in proper utilisation of the earlier stages of lockdowns to strategize and prepare for the unlocking phase,” the Chamber alleged.
It further alleged that DDMA funds had been “spent on the purchase of barriers despite Kashmir having the highest inventory of barriers including barbed wires available”.
The Chamber said that the prices of critical medical equipment including Oxygen Concentrators have skyrocketed without any system of checks and balances in place.
The Chamber alleged that shopkeepers were being pushed against the wall by the financial stress and “in pursuit of bringing food to the family are being forced to operate like smugglers and reports of excessive harassment by various enforcement agencies are pouring in”.
The KCCI said that at the district level in the valley also, “confusing amendments” have been made to the comprehensive guidelines issued by the Chief Secretary of J&K, who is the Chairman of the State Disaster Management Authority.
While banks were kept open throughout the pandemic, “no care was taken to monitor their functioning resulting in reports of largest COVID-19 clusters emerging from banks, ” the KCCI said.
The Chamber also alleged that “handpicked star restaurants frequented by the high and mighty have been allowed to operate without any interruption whereas the lesser mortals are not allowed activities”.
“Similarly government offices are functioning at full strength despite daily movement of employees posing a risk whereas schools are not being allowed to operate on minimal rotational routine suggested by their respective associations, ” it added.
The KCCI said that due to the continuous closure of schools, students stand deprived of quality education due to the ban on 4G internet, “providing which the government of Jammu and Kashmir has been opposing tooth and nail in the Supreme Court of India”.
The Chamber further questioned the government’s decision to open the Royal Springs Golf Course (RSGC) amid the prevailing pandemic.
The KCCI alleged that even when the District Magistrate Srinagar declared curfew in Srinagar on the August 4 and 5, “when a majority of beleaguered 17 lakh people were caged behind fancy barriers and barbed wire, the RSGC was open and jampacked”.
“Apparently the jurisdiction of the District Magistrate ends at the gates of RSGC”.
The Chamber lamented that no tangible support has been provided to the business community who continue to struggle not for revival or growth but their very survival.