Internet gag dents entrepreneurs' business in Kashmir

A man rides a shikara through the frozen portion of Dal Lake as temperature dips to minus 6.2 degrees Celsius, in Srinagar, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. (PTI Photo)

Though relative normalcy may have returned to Kashmir after five months of uncertainty post abrogation of Article 370, there is no relief to the agony of young entrepreneurs as mounting interest rates and internet gag is denting their business and psyche badly.
After the Centre scrapped the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and imposed communication restrictions, an overwhelming number of entrepreneurs who had started enterprises in recent years and were dependent on the internet have been left idle. The mounting interest on the loans they had availed from the banks is forcing them to wind up their businesses and move out of the Valley.
“The situation arising post-August has ruined my business and I am not even able to pay electricity bills for my office. I have not paid my office rent for this period and interest rates are mounting,” lamented Tufail Shah, who had started his venture in 2015.
“Where will I get money from to pay rent, utility bills and interest to the bank? My office is shut for the past five months and I have not earned a single penny. I am thinking of winding up my business and move out,” Shah, an engineering graduate, told DH.
Yasir Ahmad, who had started a Tour and Travel agency in early 2018, says all his hard work has been ruined in the past five months of uncertainty. “Internet is the lifeline for tour and travel business. The Centre pulled that plug on August 5. The virtual world was our space for growth which has been snatched from us,” he said.

Ahmad said every month he pays interest of about Rs 7,000 to the bank, from where he had availed loan to start up his venture. “I am not even in a condition to pay interest, from where I will liquidate the huge loan? I had spent all the money on assets. Despite the prevailing situation, the banks don’t forget to call,” he rued. 

The entrepreneurs want the government to provide compensation for the loss as it was their call to shut the internet services in the valley. They allege that the government, on one side, claims to encourage the startups, while on the other, they are creating hurdles like internet shutdown.

 A senior official of Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute said despite the prevailing situation, every day scores of people visit their office. “Footfalls have not decreased but frankly speaking we are avoiding youth, who want to start new businesses. The mindset of entrepreneurs has not changed but dented slightly. So, hope is still alive and kicking,” he added.

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