Summer woes

While the government is working overtime, and perhaps going overboard in trying to avert a Summer unrest, common people have their fingers crossed. Many traders who bore the brunt of summer unrest in 2010 are wading cautiously to avoid economic losses. Ikhlaq Qadri reports.

Ovais Ahmad, a wholesale trader in Srinagar’s Bohri Kadal area doesn’t want a repeat of last year’s mental agony. He cringes at the thought of economic losses and valuable items decaying in his shop because of unrest, so he has planned the coming summer differently.

Used to procure merchandise for his shop in bulk, Ovais has slashed down the order by as much as “90 percent” especially for the items required for marriage parties. The 2010 devoured the most of Kashmir’s marriage season, and the ceremonies that still were organised, were held austerely.

“How many times can we have backup to sustain losses,” remarks Ovais, explaining his caution.

It is the perishable items- like Tomato Puree, Mushroom, Cherry, Pine-Apple – that he is being more cautious about.

 “I ordered for only one case where I used to order ten,” Ovais shared.

A few metres ahead, is a shop selling dry fruits, another item used extensively in marriages. The shopkeeper shares similar views. Terming the year 2010 as “the year of loss” he said, “As the shops remained closed and temperature was high, dry fruit- prone to get rotten was spoiled resulting in huge financial losses,” he told Kashmir Life, wishing not to be named.

He is also using a cautious and planned approach to business this year.

“Right now this is the engagement season and I have procured the items accordingly. In no way will I order once for the whole year,” he said.

While the approach can be found across the trader fraternity, the items of daily use, or the non perishable ones, don’t fall in the ‘caution’ category.
“Routine items are in ample quantity but I have cut down the items which we used to order more for the marriage purpose. If I used to get a full truckload, I have ordered only half,” said another shopkeeper.

However they insisted that all the items used in marriages are available in the market, only the traders aren’t stocking up huge.

“It is not true that we are not getting the items used in marriage functions but the fact is the order has been cut down in order to see how the situation will turnout,” said a wholesaler of  Nowhatta.

Aafaq Qadri, interim president of Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK) says there is no need for extra caution.

“Let us be optimistic about the situation. We should have belief that everything will be alright. We are used to the turmoil from last so many years,” said Qadri.

He opined that the traders should procure their routine quotas, if not more.

The families who have a marriage planned this summer are in a dilemma too, undecided about the manner the marriage function should take place.

“I have not decided the way function should be performed,” said Mushtaq Ahmad whose daughter is getting married in June.

“Who knows what will happen. I am uncertain what to do and what not with the result I have not finalised the list of invitees and am unable to book the butcher, the chef or the camping agency,” said Ahmad.

However, the recent statement of Hurriyat Conference Chairman (G) Syed Ali Geelani that the conglomerate has no plans of prolonged strikes and agitation in summer has created some optimism among the traders.

“A bit of uncertainty has faded away since Geelani Sahab has stressed that Hurriyat won’t give call for prolonged strikes,” confided a wholesaler wishing anonymity.

The government departments also seem to be driven by the uncertainty factor. The state Estates department put a condition on hoteliers accommodating civil secretariat employees to stock sufficient quantities of eatables for the year. This is believed to be done in order to evade any problems in case of any unrest. Around 1200 rooms in 106 hotels are booked by the government in order to accommodate the staff.

The officials termed the process as routine work of the department attributed to the condition of the national highway blockade due to weather conditions. They also claimed that it is the prime responsibility of hoteliers to keep the sufficient stock available.

“We have to see everything and not only the food items. If they give us hotel it is their responsibility to keep the sufficient stock available. If tomorrow (Jammu-Srinagar) highway is closed, at that time they approach us,” Deputy Director Estates Abdur Rashid War told Kashmir Life.

Denying any element of having apprehension about the summer unrest War said, “How can we presume the situation. It is up to God. This is not the consideration while issuing the order.”

The decision which has been put in place for the first time has not well received by the hoteliers.

“No condition should be there, as being Kashmiris, it is in our nature to have enough stocks,” said Siraj Ahmad President Hotels and Restaurant association.
Siraj however said that it was up to the individual hotel or guest house owners to decide whether they are ready to fulfil the prescribed conditions or not.

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