A spate of strikes and protests in Jammu and Kashmir has cost the state Rs 6,500 crore so far this year, and every day of shutdown or curfew could deny the administration Rs 161 crore in revenue.
The resurgent tourism industry may wind up as the silent victim of separatist activities in the state, with tourist arrivals falling sharply in the past few weeks. The Valley was buzzing with tourists and hotel rooms were sold out till August seven.
Although agriculture and animal husbandry drive the state’s economy, a beating taken by the tourism industry is sure to act as a drag on allied sectors such as handicrafts, handloom and transport.
An estimated 15 to 20 lakh vacationists were expected to arrive in Srinagar this year and tourist inflow — both domestic and foreign — touched six lakh in the first six months. However, the scene is different today and tourism appears to have become the first casualty, feel officials.
Senior state finance ministry officials say the state has an average pay bill of Rs 25 crore per day, of which 60 per cent — Rs 15 crore — comes from the Kashmir Valley.
“We can broadly calculate the loss to economy per day on pay bill; General State Domestic Product is Rs 35,000 crore per annum and trading and bank credit Rs 17,000 crore per annum. The figure approximately works upto Rs 161 crore per day,” said a senior finance ministry official.
During this year, separatists gave strike calls for 35 days in all and the Kashmir Valley remained under curfew for five days. The tentative loss is being pegged at Rs 6,440 crore and the figures may go up only, said the official.
The general mood among the people in the state is that their economy is seeing a downturn and officials see a concerted effort being made to disturb the tourism industry, which would further lead to deterioration in people’s income and result in more citizens taking to the streets at the behest of separatists.
“You see when shikarawalas, taxi drivers, small shops selling handicrafts are left jobless because of continued disturbance, they will jump on to the streets...now this anger is misconstrued as joining hands with separatists,” says a senior tourism ministry official.
Tourism formed the mainstay of J&K’s economy before insurgency hit the industry in 1989.