Kashmiri People Struggling to Survive in the $1Billion Lockdown

The streets of Kashmir are deserted and devoid of the tourist business which had supported up to 700,000 people.

The lockdown in Indian-occupied Kashmir has cost the region’s economy more than $1bn in two months, according to industry experts.

Mushtaq Chai recalls the afternoon of 2 August when he received a   note warned of “terror threats” and advised that tourists and Hindu pilgrims should “curtail their visit… and return as soon as possible”.

“This was the first time in Kashmir’s history that tourists and pilgrims were asked to leave,” Mr Chai says.

A government official, who did not wish to be named, says they are “awaiting a financial package” from the federal government. But the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry estimates the shutdown has already cost the region more than $1.4bn (£1.13bn), and thousands of jobs have been lost.

“There are around 3,000 hotels in the valley and they are all empty. They have loans to pay off and daily expenses to bear,” says Mr Chai, sitting in his mostly empty hotel in the capital, Srinagar.

“No internet has meant more than 5,000 travel agents have lost work,” says Javed Ahmed, a travel agent himself. “The government says give jobs to the youth. We are young but jobless. We have nothing to do with politics. We want jobs.”

“More than 50,000 jobs have been lost in the carpet industry alone,” according to Shiekh Ashiq, president of the chamber of industry. He says July to September is when carpet makers usually receive orders for export – especially overseas, but they are unable to contact importers, or even their own employees, because of the communications lockdown.

Srinagar’s almost 1,000 iconic houseboats have also been running empty.

There is also a shortage of skilled labour, as some 400,000 migrants have left since the lockdown began.

What’s more, the streets are deserted and devoid of the tourist business which had supported up to 700,000 people.

More than two months on, the situation is far from normal. Internet and mobile phone connections remain suspended, public transport is not easily available, and most businesses are shut – some in protest against the government, and others for fear of reprisals from militants opposed to Indian rule.

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