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Our precarious lives

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By: Peer Mohammad Amir Qureshi

On my way back from Ganderbal, I hopped onto a local bus to grab some must-have items. During the ride, my attention was drawn to a lady cradling a baby in her lap, furiously rummaging through her purse.

In her quest, she revealed a torn five-rupee note, clearly distressed by the loss of something precious. Touched by her plight, I stepped up to cover her fare, acting on my empathetic impulse.

As I observed this poignant moment unfold, a whirlwind of questions engulfed my thoughts. What trials and tribulations had she faced? Did her husband abandon her with a mere five Rupee note and their child? Were their Circumstances truly dire? Were they plunged into abject poverty?  What was the story behind that torn note?

To both her and me, it appeared nothing short of a wondrous miracle that the bus conductor didn’t even asked for fare. As fate would have it, when the bus came to a halt, she gracefully exited without the conductor even asking for fare, leaving me in a state of bewilderment and an insatiable thirst for understanding.

What I understood by all this is that the economic plight of the valley’s inhabitants continues to deteriorate with each passing year. Even with all family members contributing, the middle-class households find themselves plagued by financial vulnerability unable to satiate their ever-mounting needs and aspirations.

Once a bastion of self-sufficiency, Kashmir now finds itself tethered to imports, with prices escalating incessantly, particularly for everyday essentials such as food items and beverages.

Inflation has exacerbated the situation in Kashmir, inflicting a severe blow on the common person. Essential items witness an unrelenting ascent in prices, with daily revisions that seem to reach new heights. The common narrative unfolds as the public contends that shopkeepers hike prices, while the merchants assert that post-GST and CST implementation, profit margins are elusive.

Numerous shopkeepers have permanently shuttered their establishments, seeking fresh narratives, as the struggle to meet their daily needs became insurmountable. The paradox of personal earnings is that as one’s income increases, so do the exigencies of life.

Employees find themselves in a less-than-ideal situation, as their pay fails to secure a peaceful life. Economic struggles intensify toward month-end, leaving wallets empty. Borrowing for necessities becomes a common practice, with the confidence that repayment will ensue once the salary arrives. The business landscape in Kashmir has crumbled, and as the caretaker of my family emporium, I meticulously observe the market’s fragility.

Conversing with a distributor revealed a disconcerting trend—goods are returned due to delayed payments, a consequence of the sluggish pace of business. The intricate nature of credit, fostering a sense of dishonesty, has strained relationships between shopkeepers and distributors, exacerbating the challenges in this economic slowdown.

When I posted about the very incident of economic instability on my Facebook feed a noted columnist of valley commented that Kashmir has lost its sheen day after another. In a poignant recount, he shared an encounter at a xerox shop, where the shopkeeper, elated by the rare customer in the evening, revealed the stark reality—scarcity of patrons mirrored the prevailing economic downturn in the valley.

Meanwhile, yesterday brought tidings from Jammu and Kashmir, unveiling a decline in the retail inflation rate to a favorable 3.4 percent in October, as meticulously reported by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

The soaring unemployment rate in the valley has left the educated youth reluctant to engage in either farming or business, further exacerbating the prevailing challenges. We now can only hope and pray May the benevolent guidance of Almighty Allah alleviate the burdens we bear and graciously bestow upon us abundant increments in all aspects of our lives.

(The author is a writer and columnist based in Ganderbal. The views expressed are his own and ‘Kashmir Vision’ does not necessarily subscribe to them)

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