The Kashmir Walla’s Pirzada Shakir spoke with Mohammad Yaseen Khan, president of the Traders and Manufacturers Federation and chairperson of the Kashmir Economic Alliance on rising COVID-19 and restrictions on businesses.
How do you see the administration’s decision of a staggered lockdown?
We are as much concerned about human lives as the government is but the decision of enforcing the opening of shops on alternate days should be assessed if it is helpful in curbing the spread of the virus. As experts say if there is complete lockdown for ten days it may be helpful in breaking the chain of the COVID-19 virus. We are against the order because it is a futile exercise and would not stop the spread of the virus.
What do you recommend?
A complete lockdown should be imposed for 10 days instead of an odd-even formula as the business community has always been at loss and cannot bear if the lockdown is carried on for an unlimited time.
The ten-day lockdown can be an experiment as other states and Union territories including Delhi have imposed a six-day complete lockdown in a bid to discourage the spread of the virus. We are hopeful that this formula would work without having a concurrent effect on the business and the lives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
The government needs to take into consideration that traders have loans and have to pay monthly installments. It is also evident that the government runs on the taxes of businessmen and once business establishments are shut it adversely affects the economy of the state and the business of the people. We also have to pay tax returns and if we fail to do so on time we are penalised despite knowing that the traders have been going on in loss for around two years.
Has the government taken measures to assist traders affected in successive lockdowns since August 2019?
A rehabilitation package of ₹1350 crore was sanctioned by the government meant to rehabilitate the business sector of Jammu and Kashmir but till date only two installments of ₹250 crore have been released. It was not a big amount for a union territory (UT) but those who are at the helm of affairs in the UT have not been able to take the rest of the amount since the past about eight months. The business sector has been providing jobs to around 1.50 lakh people in the Kashmir division alone and adverse decisions concerning the sector have ultimately hit the lives of the people associated with it.