Their pear and apple harvest rotting, ration and cash running out — people in several parts of Kashmir are facing financial hardships due to the ongoing shutdown in major parts of the Valley, say three panchayat members from the region.
IMAGE: The economy of Jammu and Kashmir is largely based on agriculture and tourism. The state produced 19.56 lakh MT of fresh fruits in 2018-19. Photograph: Fayaz Kabli FK/AH/LA/Reuters
Hailing from Anantnag district of south Kashmir, Talib Hussain, along with fellow panchayat member Iqbal Ahmed and Mumtaz Ahmed Khan, said they were in the national capital to let the people know about the “ground realities” in the Valley.
Earlier this month, the central government abrogated provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution to withdraw Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and divided it into two Union Territories. Since then, major parts of the Kashmir Valley have been under security restrictions.
The three, who drove down from the Valley to Delhi, said they had nothing to do with politics on the matter, and wanted the people to know about the hardships being faced by the residents of the Valley.
“Our pears were ready for harvest, they rotted. Now the peaches and apples too are rotting. Shops are not open, where do we get ration from? There is shortage of rice and other basic necessities,” Hussain said.
The economy of Jammu and Kashmir is largely based on agriculture and tourism. The state produced 19.56 lakh MT of fresh fruits in 2018-19.
Efforts to seek reaction of the official spokesperson of Jammu and Kashmir government did not fructify.
Jammu and Kashmir Principal Secretary Rohit Kansal had said on Saturday that despite the curbs, the total dispatch of fruits this year had been 1.20 lakh metric tonnes against 89,000 metric tonnes during the corresponding period last year.
Officials in Kashmir said the situation in the Valley is returning to normalcy and that the movement of private vehicles is improving.
The three men belong to the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Congress, a body of panchayat members facing threats from militants. It was formed in 2018.
Khan has recently resigned as a Panchayat member.
“The situation is far from normal in the Valley. It began on August 4 itself, with many among us getting polite calls from the police to go to the local police stations. Only those who did not respond to the calls are still free,” Khan claimed.
“There has been misuse of Public Security Act,” alleged Hussain, adding that they could meet and decide to visit Delhi as they live in close proximity.
Recalling the day when Home Minister Amit Shah declared that Jammu and Kashmir would no longer have special status, Ahmed said hours before his statement in Parliament, people were told to not step out of their homes.
“We were told to stay indoors. Our children have been at home for the past 20 days. They have no where to go, nothing to do,” said Iqbal.
“The government said schools have been opened….but will you send your children to schools surrounded by security forces?” asked Iqbal.
They claimed that even basic medicines were not accessible to the people and pregnant women cannot be ferried to hospitals because of lack of transport.
Authorities have denied that there was any shortage of medicines in Kashmir Valley, with 1,165 out of 1,666 chemist shops in Srinagar being open on Sunday.
“The banks were open on Eid on August 12, but only Rs 2000 were given to each account holder. ATMs only had Rs 100 notes and a limit of Rs 4000 (was imposed),” according to one of them.
“The rural people, who have to walk miles for accessing ATMs, didn’t even get that money,” he said.
“When we filled up the forms for the panchayat elections, we stood by the Constitution,” Iqbal said, but rued that they have to face such a situation now.
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