COVID surge cripples businesses again in Kashmir

Upsurge in COVID cases has halted the economic recovery and put businesses in distress again in Kashmir.

Amid rising infection, the government’s decision to impose weekend restrictions has hit the business badly in Kashmir, the traders say that the lockdown has derailed their winter business season.

Most of the businesses-like clothing, footwear retailers, and others that come under the non-essential category have taken a hit as the government has restricted non-essential movement during weekends.

Traders say that the footfall in Kashmir markets was already low and the lockdown has bought the business back to a halt.

Farhan Kitab, President Kashmir chapter of All India Retailer’s Association said that the winter season has been hit badly by COVID and now weekend lockdown has put the final nail in the coffin.

“During winter season usually winter items of clothing, footwear, and other winter items remain in demand, but due to the dip in demand, our stock remains unsold at the same time which implies losses. We have borrowed money from banks on which traders have to pay interest. It is a double whammy for us,” Kitab said.

As the COVID cases increased in Kashmir, the administration ordered a weekend lockdown starting from 15 of January. On Friday again a 64-hour lockdown was imposed from Friday 2 pm to Monday 6 am. The government barred all the non-essential movements during the lockdown.

The traders say that with most offices closed on weekends, they used to witness a better footfall of shoppers but the lockdown has now affected their business and exposed them to losses.

“This winter season has been crippled due to COVID. A clothing and footwear business like ours takes a huge hit as it doesn’t come under essential goods. I had bought fresh stock for the winters for my shop. As the business got better and covid faded away I thought this winter season will go well all the hopes have been shattered again due to the COVID,” said Muhammad Salim, a clothing outlet owner from Hazratbal.

Aijaz Shahdhar, President Kashmir Traders’ Alliance, said that as the COVID had been under control after the second wave, they were expecting good winter business but the Omicron wave turned things around.

“I believe that SOPs should be followed in letter and spirit so that lockdowns won’t be extended. These lockdowns push the business community to huge losses as has happened in past few years. There are pending winter stocks that if not sold during winter will turn into losses. Our business community has already been suffering and traders have borrowed money to keep the business going,” Shahdhar said.