Fix the Economy

File Photo: Habib Naqash/GK

The alarming rise in Covid19 cases in Jammu and Kashmir and the lock down necessitated by it has spelled a doom for the economy of the Union Territory. The economy was tottering even before the deadly disease struck Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of the country like host of countries across the continents. Jammu and Kashmir’s daily addition in cases has gone up to three digits  and it threatens to reach higher as te single day cases are calculated  between 500-600. This is a grim situation  and it can become worse.

It is a striking reality, and J&K may be in a very difficult situation soon. The attempts  to trigger blame game should be shunned. The world had never faced such a  situation ever before.

The unprecedented has beaten the unprecedented in definition and all the statistical calculations  have gone wrong, the pandemic doesn’t go by the mathematical calculations. It devises its own maths, and it has flattened  the imagination and cool calculation of the health workers, doctors and scientists. The situation has not  improved, because the cases are underreported and the policy makers have their own priorities.

To expect the Government to announce package after package as a stimulus is also not justified, given the fact its resources are drying up and revenue collection has become a major challenge.

There is a deluge  of demands from all sectors, and they have a solid reason to do so. All the sectors without any exception are undergoing worst period of their life. This anxiety has been multiplied several fold  by the evaporating economic activities and jobs.

So, what is required is a drastic shift in policy making that balances the hard realities with an all-inclusive outlook for all sections of society. It is imperative now as there are substantial reports of the community spread of the Covid 19 in Jammu and Kashmir. This is a serious problem not only for health workers or the government struggling to come out of the grim situation.

This situation has assumed dangerous dimensions, economically too. Today, there is count of Covid related deaths and cases, tomorrow there might be alarming and uncontrollable scenario of unmanageable number of jobless people. That will be a dangerous mix of so many dangerous situations in the UT.

The bigger fear is of its all-consuming  capacity, leaving a big vacuum that may take ages to fill up. At the moment, given the situation in J&K and the unimaginable rise in Covid cases in India, no one can say it with any certainty that when the country will be free of this virus.

Till then we will have to grapple with the situation with determination and a positive outlook. If all good things come to an end, so do the bad things. It all depends how the situations are handled.

Industrial map of J&K is minuscule. There are not many big industries, almost nil in the Valley. In Kashmir, straightening of iron rods or moulding them, or shaping tins have been classified as industry.

A situation erupted in 1990s cast a dark shadow on the industries and entrepreneurship. Kashmir situation adversely affected the industries in Jammu region. The industry in Jammu was concentrated in plains.

That is an old story but its cumulative effect has devastated the industry. Honestly, no sincere effort was made to revive the industry or to invite the international investors to invest.

Two things were clear: much before the Article 370 was scrapped in August last year, investors were apprehensive of investing. They were afraid that the special status laws could drain their investment. Second, they were worried when TV channels started splashing reports of militancy related violence with big noise and banging of their studio  tables. Some of them donned military uniforms further scaring investors and visitors.  Despite the UT of J&K having laws like rest of the country, things have  not changed. It is a bitter truth, let’s face it.

Boisterous TV channels are scaring them with their usual pre August 5 times. They think that they were doing a service to the nation. The fact is other way round. Either they have lost their  power to undertake or they don’t want to understand at all. And, for that they must be having their own reasons. There seems to be a method in their madness.

Now, what has been done to Rs 10,000 crore Kashmiri apple story. It is in great trouble as the horticulture sector has not risen from its distress that has been visiting it year after year – 2014 floods, 2016 turmoil, its after effects in 2017 and beginning of collapse of political system since June 2018.

There should have been attempts to repair and restore the political system that, in turn, could have  kept the economy afloat in pre- Covid times. Nothing has happened and the price is being paid by one and all.

Lt. Governor G C Murmu can make a beginning. He should invite all stake holders one by one and take a collective and all encompassing decision to fix the economy. That is real test alongside flattering of the curve of Covid.