Shikarawallahs struggling for survival in Kashmir
Srinagar, May 15 2020 - Kashmir has seen two successive lockdowns in less than a year dealing a major blow to the economy, and among the worst sufferers are the houseboat owners and 'shikarawallahs, who are now pinning hope on the Centre's economic package to help them tide over the crisis.
Life on the picturesque Dal Lake has come to a standstill. Shikaras are empty and parked along the edges of the lake.
Mohammad Ismail, a shikara owner, says he is finished. Ismail has been idle since August 5 last year after the abrogation of Article 370. Just when things started looking up in Kashmir a lockdown in the wake of coronavirus pandemic ended all hopes for a revival of the business.
Ismail says everyday he goes to the lake with his boat but returns home in the evening emptyhanded without finding a single client.
Last month the J&K government announced a financial package of Rs 1,000 for the shikarawallahs for three months but they say the package is extremely insignificant.
"1,000 rupees looks like a joke," Ismail said. "I use to earn thousand rupees in one day before the August 5 lockdown but since August 5 last year there is no work."
In the months before the abrogation of Article 370 the Dal Lake was bustling with tourists going for boat rides in large numbers. But houseboats and have been vacant ever since. There are no tourists and there is no business.
"Package by J&K government is not enough, we want a substantial economic to deal with the crisis," said Abdul Hameed, a houseboat owner. "For rest of the country it is just the second month in the lockdown, but for us there is no business for close to nine months now."
All eyes are now on the Centre's economic package for a substantial economic assistance for sections like the shikarawallahs and houseboat owners.