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Tourism Industry In Kashmir On Deathbed As Lockdown Continues

Shikaras moored in Dal Lake Srinagar, Wednesday, August 28, 2019. Photo: Abid Bhat.

Srinagar: As uneasy calm continues to prevail in Kashmir which continues to remain cut off from the world and inside the Valley too.

Forty days have passed since the revocation of article 370 by the government, but the situation remains unchanged and the future looks uncertain. The people remain largely uninformed about what is happening in their immediate surroundings, let alone the distant places within the Union Territory (UT).

The government narrative so far has been that the situation is gradually heading towards normalcy. But it has baulked at lifting the security lockdown and communication blackout too remains very much in place.

The economy of the state was on its lowest ebb and now the lockdown has further witnessed a blow to the already ailing business.

A few days before the abrogation of the special status, the state administration issued an advisory which advised tourists to vacate, leaving hotels and houseboats deserted.

The fleeing of tourists has cast a shadow on the tourism sector which provides a livelihood to over about 5.6 Lakh people in the valley.

As the top players of the tourism industry claim that the revenue to the tune of crores of rupees has been lost due to the situation which led to mass cancellation of bookings.

Shikaras moored in Dal Lake Srinagar, Wednesday. Photo: Abid Bhat.

Due to the prevailing uncertainty in Kashmir, more than 5,000 hotels in Kashmir stand locked and at least 10,000 staff members have been fired as the owners assert that due to the huge losses they have suffered in the past 40 days, they were not able to pay their loan instalments, let alone the salary of their employees.

Nazir Ahmad, a hotel owner at Boulevard, Srinagar while speaking to The Cognate, said that over the past twenty days, they have suffered huge losses.

“I had 25 staffers including waiters and cooks. I have fired 16 in the first phase and three more in the second phase as I am not able to pay them their monthly salary due to the prevailing situation that has taken a serious toll on the tourism industry,” he said.

“Right from the day one of the issuance of tourist advisory by the state government, not a single room is occupied and no further booking has been made so far. This is for the first time that all the 30 rooms at my hotel are vacant,” said Mohammad Safdar, who owns a hotel at the Boulevard road, near Dalgate.

“Right after accessing the ground-level situation in Kashmir I preferred to lock down the hotel, causing a huge loss to my business,” he added.

Life on the picturesque Dal Lake has come to a standstill where houseboats Shikaras are empty and parked along the edge of the lake.

Before the abrogation of Article 370, the Dal Lake was bustling with tourists flocking for shikara rides. But all that has changed. Houseboats and hotels are empty.

Many shikarawalas have turned innovative to earn their livelihood. Some have switched over as vegetable vendors along the banks of the Dal Lake.

A vegetable vendor waiting for customers on the banks of Dal Lake in Srinagar. Photo: Abid Bhat.

Mohammad Yousuf Najar, a houseboat owner said that at an average they were used to operate on full bookings during the month of August, which they perceive among the best performing month of the year, but unfortunately due to the abrogation of Article 370 which led to restrictions and shutdowns, they are suffering huge losses.

“As from the previous business operations, average earnings during the month of August recorded about seven lakh, but this sudden move of clampdown and restrictions have choked our business,” he said.

Lateef Ahmad, a Shikara owner at the Dal Lake, here said that his business started affecting due to the advisory of the state government issued prior to the scrapping of Article 370.

“Keeping in view the present scenario, we are afraid about future investments into this striving sector as we have been facing deep financial crisis due to the restrictions and shutdowns.”

The government is least concerned about our sufferings and losses which incurred due to their advisory and we are sure that by the end of this tormenting time they will come up with figures of estimated losses and nothing else.

“We lost our expectations from the present government who devastated us financially due to the forcefully imposed restrictions,” Lateef said.

Tourism is the backbone of Kashmir’s economy. Lakhs of people associated with the hospitality and tourism industry have been affected by the ongoing situation in Kashmir. While there aren’t any exact figures about the losses incurred after the abrogation of Article 370, industry experts say the losses could run into hundreds of crores.

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Written By

Auqib Javeed is a Srinagar-based journalist.

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