Golf for rich, lockdown for poor: Kashmir Inc slams government for ‘punishing’ people

Srinagar: Kashmir Inc. has slammed the government for punishing people by imposing indefinite lockdown while opening golf courses for the rich and mighty.

Lashing out at the government for misplaced priorities, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) said the authorities are spending money on buying concertina wires rather than medical equipment to deal with a pandemic.

“Despite full cooperation extended by the general public and the business community, the administration appeared to be running around in circles and seem oblivious to the fact that the business community of Kashmir is in the 13th month of a disruption,” said a spokesman of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI).

He said on the other side the Royals have been enjoying their golf rounds without any break whereas the

shopkeepers are put behind bars for seeking to feed their families out of frustration.

Royal Springs Golf Course (RSGC), which was closed till May, has been opened in June, he said.

“This coincided with the government’s announcement of shifting of Durbar to Srinagar. It has been ensured that the RSGC remains open. Even when District Magistrate declared curfew in Srinagar on August 4 and 5 and the majority of 17 lakh people were caged, the RSGC was open and jam-packed. The jurisdiction of the district magistrate ends at the gates of RSGC,” he said.

Hitting out at the government, the spokesman said DDMA funds have been spent on the purchase of barriers despite Kashmir having the highest inventory of barbed wires.

“Prices of critical medical equipment including Oxygen concentrators have skyrocketed without any system of checks and balances in place. Butchers are hauled up for selling meat at meagerly higher prices but no attention is being paid to regulate the prices of essential and critical medical equipment.

Shopkeepers, pushed against the wall by the financial stress and in pursuit of bringing food to the family are being forced to operate like smugglers and reports of excessive harassment by various enforcement agencies are pouring in,” he said.

Citing an example of Mumbai, the KCCI spokesman said despite 5.35 lakh cases with a daily average of 1,700 cases the financial capital has now entered in Unlock 3.0 phase. Elaborating, he said Mumbai has a population of more than 2 crores living in an area of 603 sq km as compared to Srinagar’s population of around 17 lakh in an area of 294 sq km.

“A six times higher population density of 33,168 persons per sq km as compared to 5,782 persons per sq km in Srinagar. On August 3, the BMC has allowed all shops – essential and non-essential – to open all day except in containment zones. There are currently around 700 containment zones in Mumbai but unlike in Srinagar, they mostly consist of individual buildings and chawls/slums. Here, the administration cannot stop tweeting and identify individual houses. They simply barricade entire neighborhoods, if not the entire districts,” he said.

Lambasting district administrations, he said confusing amendments have been made to the comprehensive guidelines issued by the worthy chairman of the State Disaster

Management Authority

“A majority of the public has no idea of what the guidelines are. Banks were open throughout but no care was taken to monitor their functioning resulting in reports of largest COVID clusters”, he said.

KCCI said they are not against opening Golf Course but it seems the government’s concern is to keep senior functionaries and powerful elite physically and mentally fit.

“Had their salaries and privileges been stopped for 13 months, we doubt that they would be hitting their shots as beautifully. But at closer inspection, we realize that it is not Golf which is the issue, it is saying one thing and doing the opposite. It is about speaking empowerment and acting to disempower,” he said.

KCCI, the spokesman noted, has never shied away from appreciating decisions and policies of the government wherever it merited. The business community has a responsibility not to mince words while observing any departure in expectations from the Government.

“The story of Kashmir Golf Club (KGC) which has now become the poor country cousin of the RSGC gives the real picture. Spread over 500 kanals of prime land in the heart of the city, the government’s bank under its Corporate Social Responsibility invested Rs 40 Crores for up-gradation of the KGC. The 500 permanent members of the Club stand sidelined with no say in its functioning,” he said.

He said the democratic system of elections which was in vogue for 70 years along with the members stands bulldozed after the government took over. The last elections were held in 2013.

“Then, in July 2019 with the usual good-for-public narrative, the KGC was declared to be a `people’s Golf Course’ with 100 rupee access to all especially youth and school children. KGC is still closed for public,” he said.

The spokesman said no tangible support has been provided to the business community who continue to struggle not for revival or growth but their very survival.

“Unemployment is at an all-time high with job losses running into lakhs. On the contrary, inconsiderate policies have pushed the business community to the wall,” he said. (KNT)