Melancholy of Tourism in Indian Occupied Kashmir

Monitoring Desk Report

SRINAGAR, IOK: “Since August everything is not working, everything is closed and you talk about tourism. What tourism? There is no business and actually no life in Kashmir. Do you see any business in any jail except business of cruelty?”.

These expressions came from Suliman Farooki who used to work as Tourist Guide in Kashmir Valley (read as Indian Occupied Kashmir). Having degree in Economics from JNU Delhi, he was working as Tourism Guide and an expert in Agritourism.

Farooki informed Eurasian News that season of autumn used to be a throbbing tourism season in the valley, and grapes and apple orchards used to be prime spot for domestic and foreign tourists. Today there are no apples and grapes in markets and left ruined at trees because nobody was allowed to pluck them and transport them to market and nobody was allowed to see their beauty while hanging over trees.

Farooqi, who had good knowledge of Agritourism, claimed that the valley’s economy is (was) primarily services-based and agri-oriented, and the area is known for its horticulture industry with a production of fruits around 3.61 million metric tonnes a year.

Citing Economic Survey of India (2017), he added that a land of 3.4 lakh hectares was under fruit cultivation of which 48% is used to grow apples and is the primary source of livelihood for about 3.4 million people or about 0.7 million families. Kashmir produces two-thirds of India’s apples.

As per official statistics, Tourism was another flourishing economy of the region with 14.32 million in 2017 out of which 14.24 million were domestic tourists and 79.77 thousand were foreign tourists.

Souvenir business was one of the most promising sources of income for womanhood of the valley and handicrafts are (were) also world famous and the traditional handicraft industry also contributes to the economy of the region through small-scale and cottage industries such as carpet weaving, silks, shawls, basketry, pottery, copper and silverware and walnut wood.

Saleem Aslam Afaki who is also a local poet in Srinagar believes that the cottage handicrafts industry has totally been ruined due to communication blackout and caging Indian Occupied Kashmir.

He says that handicrafts provide direct and gainful employment to around 340,000 artisans and exports from IOK stood at US$ 178.26 million during 2018-19 (up to February 19).

As per statistics of Indian economy official document, IOK is placed at 22nd number with over 1.2 lac crores INR contribution to the India’s national economy having an estimated 200.87 lac crores volume.

With the revocation of Article 370/35 A on August 5, 2019, everything changed in IOK. Now tourism is no more a word, the people are interested in. This is now a valley of fear and uncertainty.

Sarjit Singh (actual name withheld), a Sikh who is in transport business, confirmed on the condition of anonymity the closure of the highway brought about Rs (Indian currency) 2,500 crore in losses to the orchardists in the valley alone. According to him, around 700 villages in the region have been badly affected as far as the horticulture produce is concerned.

Sarjit Singh added that he had already sent his fleet of trucks to Punjab because there was no business left in valley (IoK) and there is no hope for revival of economic activities.

Around 1,200 houseboats are officially registered in Srinagar with each houseboat having two helpers. 90% of the workers on these houseboats have lost their jobs because there is no boating, no tourism and no guests in the valley.

There are about 35,000 registered Maxi-cabs in the IOK region. As per Ghulam Nabi Pandaw (the President of the maxi cab taxi stand union), cab drivers have lost their income because of the shutdown. Ironically, 35,000 families are depending upon cab-related income. Cab drivers also complain about outstanding bank installments due to the continued shutdown.