By Taha Tariq
Amid an insurgency that has raged on since more than three decades, the economic conditions of the Kashmiri commoner has been deteriorating steadily. Article-370 and Article-35A, which granted autonomy to the state, were abrogated in August 2019, and a Government report on unemployment in the state stated the rate to be as high as 16.2% in September 2019.Sufficient damage had been done to the tourism industry by the years of militant and counter-militant violence, and the tourism industry had recorded an unprecedented in drop in 2018 already, when in 2019, the abrogation of the article brought everything to a sudden halt. First of all, the telecom industry was severely affected, and lost nearly 150 crore rupees since the abrogation, due to the shut down of all communications for a while. Secondly, due to the short outbreak of violence, spread of the news and etc, tourism suffered.Schools were closed for months, but fees were charged nevertheless, resulting in pointless expenses for many parents. Most urban fathers/bread-winners are engaged in shopkeeping or similar mercantile businesses, or are daily-wage workers. The curfew took a heavy toll on them, they suffered economically due to shutdown of businesses. Saved money flew away, to sustain the costs of living, to buy food. The urban merchants were drained economically, and workers and labourers suffered immediately. Lack of businesses and construction activities robbed them of their wages. Thus, childrens’ schooling became a hectic task on the jobless parents. More than 50% employees earn less than 29,990 rupees or less, and half of them earn less than 17,100 rupees, which is far lower than India’s average. Since August 2019, much more than 200 crore rupees of private school fees remain unpaid. Private schools in Kashmir may charge as high as 4,000 rupees per month, which means a family with two children would have to pay around 8,000 rupees per month to an elite school. That was highly possible when businesses were open, even if the income was 29,990 rupees. But when the businesses were all shut, the income for many such families was reduced to almost zero, which took a heavy toll on them, resulting in their not paying of fees, or changing schools, or withdrawing, in the worst scenarios. Moreover, due to this fee defaulting, non-teaching and non-administrative staff of the schools witnessed an uncertain future.