Jammu and Kashmir’s Business Landscape in 2023: A New Era of Opportunity and Resilience

20230120 102219

As of 2023, the business climate in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has undergone significant changes, Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the business community has shown remarkable resilience, adapting to new realities and exploring new opportunities.

The abrogation of Article 370 in 2019 and the creation of two Union Territories (UTs) of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh marked a turning point in the region’s political and economic landscape. The move was aimed at bringing J&K into the mainstream and promoting its development by encouraging private sector investment. In the past few years, we have seen several positive developments in this regard.

Firstly, the UT administration has taken several measures to improve the business climate, including simplifying procedures for business registration, issuing licenses, and permits, and streamlining tax administration. The introduction of a single-window clearance system has made it easier for entrepreneurs to start and run their businesses in the region.

Secondly, the government has focused on developing infrastructure, particularly in sectors such as tourism, horticulture, and agriculture. The government’s flagship project, the Jammu and Kashmir Industrial Development Scheme (JKIDS), aims to attract investment in sectors such as IT, healthcare, tourism, and agro-processing.

Thirdly, the government has worked to promote entrepreneurship by launching various schemes such as the Entrepreneurship Development Program (EDP), Seed Capital Fund Scheme (SCFS), and Youth Start-Up Loan Scheme (YSLS). These schemes are aimed at providing financial support and mentorship to young entrepreneurs and promoting the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the region.

These initiatives have started yielding results, with several companies setting up shop in the region in recent years. Companies such as Amazon, Flipkart, and Jio have announced plans to invest in the region, signaling growing confidence in the region’s business potential.

However, there is still a long way to go. The region faces several challenges, including the ongoing security situation, inadequate infrastructure, and limited access to credit. The government must continue to work on improving these areas to attract more investment and promote economic growth in the region.

The business climate in Jammu and Kashmir has improved significantly in recent years, and there is growing optimism about the region’s economic future. The government’s efforts to promote investment in the region, coupled with the resilience of the business community, bode well for the future. With sustained efforts and investment, J&K has the potential to become a hub for innovation and growth in the years to come.

Allama Iqbal – A visionary writer, philosopher, and politician

Allama Iqbal

Allama Iqbal (RA) was a multidimensional personality. Apart from being a poet, philosopher, educator, lawyer, political activist, and social reformer, he was a devoted Muslim. His devotion to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the holy book of the Quran is vividly reflected in his words and actions.

Though Iqbal (RA) went abroad for higher studies and drank deep at the wells of knowledge in England and Germany, studied different schools of philosophy, and attained deep insight into both ancient and modern branches of learning there. But, he did not surrender to Western thinking.

On the contrary, he conquered the ideology of the West. He talked about the various dimensions of Islam.

He also introduced Moulana Rumi and his disciples to a foreign land without compromising his allegiance to the authentic dimensions of the Islamic spirit. It was his ardent love and immense spiritual attachment that he composed the verses of matchless beauty and excellence.

One of his famous poems- Asrar-I- Khudi is a masterpiece in which, he expressed the intensity of his devotional and loyalty in favor of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). While writing devotional songs (Naath-Shareef), his poetic instinct aroused high, and verses begin to flow from his pen, freely as if the springs of love burst forth within him. He says; “In the Muslim’s heart is the name of Mohammad, All glory is from the name of Mohammad.”

With each passing day, his love and devotion to the sacred prophet grew till the last phase of his life. Whenever there was the mention of Prophet Mohammad, he became so emotional and restless, tears started to roll down from his eyes. He wrote numerous poems through which, he called upon the Muslim youth to shake off their lethargy and lassitude and join the battle of life as the brave soldier.

Regarding the holy book of the Quran, it has been related by the poet himself that he used to recite the Quran daily after the Morning Prayer. He said, “Whenever my father witnessed me reciting the holy verses, he asked me this particular question- “What are you doing”? Every time my answer was, “I am reciting the Quran”.

One day, I dared to enquire about this repeated question and my father remarked, “My son, I wish you to recite the Quran as if it was being revealed to you there and then.” This particular episode left deep imprints in his mind and since then he made it his mission to read the Quran with deep understanding. This holy book opened vistas of knowledge from him. He adhered to this faith that this eternal book (the Quran) is the master key and can be used to open all the vaults of human existence. It is because of this deep attachment to the holy book of the Quran that he came out with these conclusions. Iqbal regarded the Qur’an not only as a book of religion (in the traditional sense) but also as a source of fundamental principles upon which the infrastructure of an organization must be built as a coherent system of life. It can provide perfect harmony, balance, and stability in society. According to him, a Muslim is like any other mortal. He is born as all men are, grows, feels, falls ill, gets well, and faces ups and downs.

In brief, a Muslim is governed by the same law of nature as others are. But in the spiritual sphere of his existence, a Muslim is endowed with a message which is the legacy of the prophets. He lives for a definite aim. Iqbal further claims that the Muslim is the object of creation. The world has been created for him and he has been created for God. He is responsible for the guidance of mankind. He wants a man to understand the forces of the divine element that reside in him because once it is realized and achieved; man will become the reflection of Allah.

This noble soul breathed his last in the early hours of April 21, 1938, in the arms of his devoted servant, Ali Bakish, leaving behind his rich legacy in the form of written works. There was a faint smile playing on his lips which reminds one of the last criteria he had laid down for a truthful Muslim. “I tell you the sign of a Momin when death comes, there is a smile on his lips”

نگاہ مرد مومن سے بدل جاتی ہیں تقدیریں
جو ہو ذوق یقین پیدا تو کٹ جاتی ہیں زنجیریں

Haroon Rashid Bhat is a teacher and columnist. He can be mailed at minamharoon123@gmail.com

JKyouth doesn't claim any right of this Article, the Article is written by Haroon Rashid Bhat and has first appeared on dailygoodmorningkashmir.com

Snowfall, Rains Continue In Kashmir, Early winters

Snowfall, Rains Continue In Kashmir, Early winters 1

Srinagar- Snowfall in higher reaches of Kashmir, including popular tourist destinations like Gulmarg and Sonamarg, and rains in plains brought wintry conditions earlier than usual in the valley, officials said on Thursday.

“There was significant snowfall in many areas of Kashmir including Gulmarg, Sonamarg, Gurez, and Karnah during the intervening night,” the officials said.

The officials said more than two inches of snow had accumulated in the Gulmarg bowl while the snowfall was heavier in higher reaches of the valley.

They said even the Zabarwan mountain range in the city had received traces of snowfall during the night.

Srinagar city and other areas of the valley received moderate rainfall since the early hours of Thursday, bringing down the temperature by several degrees.

People have slipped into winter wear like sweaters and heavy jackets earlier than usual.

The early snowfall has brought cheer to the faces of tourists who have arrived here to escape the pollution caused by Diwali crackers elsewhere in the country.

“We had come to enjoy the autumn hues of Kashmir while escaping the pollution caused by firecrackers back home. This snowfall is an unexpected bonus for us,” S Arvind, a resident of Hyderabad, told PTI.

Shoaib Ali, a travel agent, said the reports of snowfall have led to renewed interest in Kashmir’s winter tourism this year.

“The first snowfall in the mountains was on Tuesday and I had a busy day attending to calls from regular clients on Wednesday about winter packages. Hopefully, there will be good snowfall this winter to sustain winter tourism,” Ali said.

However, apple farmers in south Kashmir are worried lot as heavy snowfall before December will not only destroy the crop this year but cause damage to trees.

“We have had early snowfall now for three years in a row. I hope it was just a passing event as a heavy snowfall at this time will damage the trees which are still full of fruit,” Bashir Ahmad, an apple farmer from Shopian, said.

He said while early harvesting this year has ensured against any major loss, 20 per cent of the crop was still on the trees.

The weatherman has forecast improvement in the conditions later in the day and predicted a dry week.

Scam After Scam Halts Future Of Youth In Jammu And Kashmir

Kashmir News

JKSSB also Known as Jammu and Kashmir Service Selection Board is the only government body which recruits candidates for almost all the Non-Gazetted vacancies in Jammu and Kashmir.

As of now Jammu and Kashmir has the 2nd highest unemployment rate in India, a report by Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) has pegged Jammu Kashmir’s employment rate at 32.8 percent marking a spike of nearly 12 percent against the month of July when the Unemployment rate had gone up to 20. 2 percent.

Youth in Jammu and Kashmir get very less opportunity of employment in any private sector, as the private sector lacks the assurity of jobs in J&K.

In June 2020, J&K Government Advertised 8575 Class IV(Level-2) Vacancies and the posts were referred to the JKSSB for recruitment, the exams for the same were conducted in March 2021. whereas the results were declared in June 2021 and after completing all the due processes 5006 candidates were offered Job letters in November 2021.

Meanwhile the rest of 3569 posts are still vacant, it has almost been 2 and half years since the posts were advertised and yet JKSSB has failed to conclude the Recruitment process, Class IV is a level-2 Job and guess what 400400 Candidates had applied for these Posts.

The Number completely shows the desperation among the youth of Jammu and Kashmir over unemployment.

Candidates protested from time-to-time infront of the authorities against delay in the selection process, whereas government has not given any answer to their queries.

What more heats up genuine candidates is the corruption which has led to revelation of Top Scams in the history of Jammu and Kashmir, first Sub-Inspector Recruitment came under scanner when JKSSB released the results it was seen that many of those candidates who couldn’t even score over 10 marks were among the Toppers in SI result.

Many candidates came to the roads and brought the issue of Scam in the eyes of Jammu and Kashmir LG Administration and demanded CBI probe, first everyone remained silent but when Protests heated up in each part of the UT, LG had no other option left other than calling CBI to investigate the matter.

The CBI investigation revealed that many candidates aspiring for the post of sub-inspector in the Jammu and Kashmir Police force paid between Rs 20 lakh and Rs 30 lakh as a bribe for their selection.

The CBI searched around 36 locations across four states. Residential and official premises of suspects in Jammu, Srinagar, Karnal, Mahendergarh, Rewari, Gandhidham, Delhi, Ghaziabad and Bangalore, including the premises of JKSSB’s former chairman, Khalid Jehangir, and then Controller of Examination Ashok Kumar were searched.

“Incriminating documents and digital evidence have so far been recovered in the searches,” the CBI said in a statement.

The agency had filed a case on August 3 at the request of the J&K government against 33 accused on allegations of irregularities in the written examination for the posts of sub-inspectors in the J&K Police.

The probe committee also found that an abnormally high percentage of selected candidates were from Jammu, Rajouri and Samba districts.

At the same time Youth demanded inquiry in the Finance Accounts Assistant results, and this time LG Administration accepted the demand and called the CBI for investigation.

The results of both the examinations were scrapped immediately following huge irregularities, and now a new revelation by the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) states that not only the exams were leaked in connivance with Services Selection Board (SSB) previously but even OMR sheets had also been replaced in lieu of money while question paper of Panchayat Accounts Assistants had also been leaked and a deal of Rs 4 crore was struck between paper leakers of Haryana and Jammu-based scamsters for upcoming examination of Foresters.

Hazrat BB Bariya daed mouj – Daughter of mir Syed Ali Hamdani RA

BB Bariya Ziyarat

The shrine of Bibi Bariya, located in the outskirts of Srinagar in Kralpora, is a shrine exclusively meant for women. The structure is a concrete one, with the main door leading to another where Bibi Bariya’s grave is. The grave is surrounded by three windows and a door which usually remain closed. It hides behind green and black glittering curtains on which the names of Allah and some verses from the Quran are inscribed.  Between the two doors, there is a space which women use to circle around the grave, some with their eyes closed as tears roll down their cheeks while they narrate their ordeals to Bibi Bariya. Wishes of conceiving a child and curing different ailments are common in this shrine.

This shrine is believed to be of the 14th century. Bibi Bariya was the daughter of  Saif-ud-din , the then governor of Kashmir (in the era of Sikander). Saif-ullah was actually Seeh Bhatta, a non-Muslim who was always discriminated against for being from a lower cast in the era of Budshah. “He converted to Islam and became very strict towards Brahmins who later left the valley and shifted to Punjab. ‘Kashir ruz kahai ghare’ (Kashmir is left with only 11 houses) is a phrase of that time and it is believed that Saif-ud-din r.a was the reason,” says poet Zareef Ahmad Zareef. After seeing the dedication of  Saif-ud-din r.a, Mir Syed Ali Hamadani (popularly known as Shah-i-Hamadan, accompanied by 700 Sayyids spread Islam all over Kashmir) decided to marry his son, Mir Mohammad Hamadani to the lone daughter of Saif-ud-din. But Bibi Bariya died shortly after her marriage. Women who come to visit this shrine are now long time visitors who believe all their wishes have come true. People, especially women, come to this shrine throughout the week, but on Fridays, women come in the hundreds to offer their prayers in separate halls, specifically meant for prayers following the Imam in the nearby Masjid. The shrine and the Masjid are separated by a wall, and both have their separate entrance. Young girls who haven’t even entered their teenage years also come here and strongly believe their wishes might come true one day.

Only a few women are allowed to offer their prayers on the separate surface of the shrine, on the sides where Bibi’s grave doesn’t come between them and God.

The handles of the doors and windows of the shrine are not visible. They are covered with hundreds of thousands of pieces of cloth. For people visiting this shrine, these knots are their wishes that God will fulfill anytime. All these knots have been tied by Zoon Malik and before her, by her mother-in-law. Zoon is a volunteer caretaker of this shrine who believes it has been her dedication towards Bibi Bariya that her mother-in-law acknowledged her to take care of the shrine after she passed away. Zoon is an elderly lady, weak and without teeth, but she still prefers to come on the shrine every day. Earlier she would be here five times a day but now, as her health declines, she comes only once a day. She says her past; her memories; are slowly fading away because of old age, but she still recalls that no wish has remained unanswered. The thing that she says bothers her most is the changes in rules of the shrine by the representatives of Masjid. As she speaks of her concern, the wrinkles of her face silently speak of her unease, the same wrinkles that have been witness to the countless number of prayers, wishes, tears, politics, and knots of promises that float through the shrine.

Hazrat BB Bariya daed mouj - Daughter of mir Syed Ali Hamdani RA 2

“First they rebuild the shrine into a concrete structure and now they have thrown open this shrine for men- I believe these things have affected the power of the shrine,” shares Zoon Malik in a distressed voice. The shrines in Kashmir are not only religiously significant but have immense archaeological and historical importance attached to them. But now, most of the previous shrines have been changed to concrete structures.

Every resident of this area shares that during the entire era of turmoil, not even a single militant was ever martyred in the area nor did any clashes between Indian forces and militants ever happen here. They credit this to the power of Bibi’s shrine. Shakeela, a local who lives near the shrine is a witness of the day when some militants were walking on the main road and an army came from somewhere. “Those militants entered the shrine of Bibi, not inside the area where she is buried, and we were getting ready for a shootout between the two. We were so frightened that we had already dived on the floor but luckily those army men had not seen the militants and those militants were saved,” she says. She believes this village is living on the mercy of this noble lady who is resting inside.

Haji Ali Mohammad Bhat, 75, caretaker of the Masjid which is near the shrine is witness to the old structure of shrine. He remembers how flowers used to blossom from the roof of Bibi Bariya’s shrine. He names it as the shrine of ‘Deead Mouj’. This place of Deead Mouj has been the center for people visiting the shrines of Sheikh- ul- Alam in Chrare-i- Sharief and Khankah in Srinagar. This central place has been on a vast area but now it is limited to three Kanals only and the rest of the land is given to the Masjid, to the graveyard and some has also been sold off.

Hazrat BB Bariya daed mouj - Daughter of mir Syed Ali Hamdani RA 3

Haji Ali shares that in times of drought the stream that flows in front of the shrine had never dried up.  It always had water, no matter what. Locals used to call it the river of Deead Mouj but now it is just like any other stream carrying drainage water.

“In the past, a lion would visit the shrine at night. That lion had never harmed any local,” says Haji Ali blissfully.

For all people mostly from the upper reaches of this area, this shrine has always helped them in fulfilling their wishes. Mumtaz was married three years ago but she hasn’t been bestowed with a child yet. She has visited almost every shrine in the valley and now she is a regular visitor of this shrine also. She believes this shrine will definitely help in fulfilling her wish.

Mumtaz accompanied by another lady tells her to visit very frequently. The lady says she is the mother of Mumtaz and expresses her trust by recalling her own mother-in-law who has been a devotee of Deead Mouj.

“One day while coming out of the shrine after prayers, she saw a crowd on the main road. She went to check what really was happening there. It turned out to be a circus performance. Being close to the circus people she decided to enjoy it for some time and when she decided to return home, she lost her eyesight on the way back. My mother-in-law has passed away now,” says Mumtaz’s mother. She also adds, “I have a faith, I come here that is why I keep telling Mumtaz to be a regular visitor.”

According to some government figures, there are around 1111 shrines in the valley. In all shrines, women are not allowed to pray outside or go near to the holy spot, but there are two shrines where women are allowed to go inside the periphery and men are barred from entering. In these shrines, women are the caretakers. Another shrine in Kreeri, Baramulla holds four graves of women. This shrine is beside the shrine of Syed Haji Mohammad Muraad Bukhari and the four women are believed to be the wife of Syed Haji Mohammad Muraad Bukhari, his brother’s wife (who was martyred during the war in Balakh) and his two daughters. And there are two more graveyards in Bul Bul Lanker and in Malarate’ but they are not used as shrines.

The shrine of Syed Ali Aali Balki in Pakharpora also has a separate cemetery where Syed Ali Aali Balki’s wife is buried. But the grave is not decorated like the other shrines in the valley. It is bound with a roof tin, not in any concrete structure. This shrine is not open for women either. The myth is that once a man accidentally took a glimpse of that side of the grave after which he had lost his eyesight. The same is said about the shrine in Kreeri Baramulla. Besides these shrines, there is a Masjid, Pather Masjid which was built by a female- Mughal Queen, Noor Jahan in 1623.

Another report by Nafeesa Syed from the guardian 2011

At the shrine of Bibi Bariya in Kralpora, a few miles outside of Indian Kashmir’s capital of Srinagar, men are barred from entering the tomb of the 14th-century saint. It’s a rare chance for Muslim women here to engage in a spiritual space that is all their own. It also feels far removed from unrelenting political tensions in the region that have included occasional strikes and protests this summer.

In downtown Srinagar stands a shrine dedicated to Bariya’s father-in-law Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani, a Persian saint who locals credit with spreading the Sufi-oriented Islam that took hold in the valley of Kashmir. (He’s buried in Tajikistan.) Women are allowed to pray outside the sanctuary, but if they try to step inside they are immediately reprimanded.

Here, however, the opposite holds true. Men are permitted in the tiled courtyard of Bariya’s shrine, but Zoona Malik, an elderly voluntary caretaker, shoos them away if they want to enter. In the past, Malik says, men who went inside became blind.

Atop the brown-brick shrine sits the pagoda-like layered roof and pointed pillar characteristic of Kashmiri architecture. Devotees lower their heads to the steps at the entrance, and some then kiss the ground.

The wrinkly and bespectacled Malik, who doesn’t know her exact age but is a long-time visitor to the shrine, says women often come to ask from God – through the saint – with help conceiving a child or curing an illness.

“I come here to serve her,” Malik says of the saint.

In addition to the well-maintained tomb, there are two large structures the religious organisations responsible for the complex have built exclusively as women’s prayer halls.

At midday in early August, in the first week of Ramadan, about 10 women line up in a row for the congregational prayer service. They follow the imam, or prayer leader, whose voice is carried through a loudspeaker from an adjacent mosque, which is separated from the Bariya compound by a brick wall. The setup runs counter to most mosques in south Asia that usually do not have accommodations for women or even allow them to enter the worship site.

Although women can pray on the grounds of some other holy spots and mosques in Srinagar, here women aren’t sidelined to the periphery, but rather act like they own the place.

There are at least a few other shrines scattered in the valley where ladies are buried. The tradition of having a female religious guide also is not foreign to Kashmir, where some living women pirs, who act as spiritual advisers to individual disciples, still exist.

Inside Bibi Bariya’s resting place, women sit barefoot on green carpets, raising their hands and crying their woes and wishes, with the refrain, “Ay maeni khudaya!” (Oh, my Lord!) to punctuate their orations. Dozens of multi-coloured threads and ribbons are tied to the door handle, representing the prayers they hope are answered.

If they attain what they seek, then they will have to return, unknot the amulet and offer thanks.

In the recent past, the Alam Sharief  (which is preserved in khanqahe moalla of amir e kabeer mir syed ali hamdani srinagar) used to be taken to Chrar Sharief whenever a natural calamity or any disaster would hit Kashmir.“It was taken from Khan Qahi Muallaa to Charar-i-Sharief by thousands of people on foot. The devotees used to rest only at Kralpora, at the tomb of Bibi Bariya, one of the wives of Mir Muhammad
Hamdani,” Syed Aslam Andrabi says. (KashmirSufis)

Kashmir’s Walnut Industry on the verge of Collapse

Kashmir's Walnut Industry on the verge of Collapse 4

Despite being highly productive, Kashmir’s walnut is struggling to survive due to the intrusion of Californian walnut breeds into Indian markets which has diminished the value of Kashmir valley’s native walnut production.

At one point, Kashmir was ranked as the second-largest producer of walnuts in the world but walnuts from California, China (the world’s largest producer), Chile, the Netherlands, and Turkey are currently flooding the Indian market.

The Kashmiri walnut business has been severely affected by the lack of scientific intervention and intense competition from cheap imported varieties, leading growers to look for alternate crops like apple orchards to earn their livelihood. Another reason which made walnut growers of Kashmir worried is climate change, population expansion, and the imposition of GST and VAT.

Kashmir's Walnut Industry on the verge of Collapse 5

Kashmir’s walnut industry has suffered in past years. Growers directly associated with the organic crop lamented that both rates as well as the market have shrunk. Once famed for their rich ingredients and creamy taste, Kashmiri walnuts are being sold at throw-away prices by the farmers

As per official data, India produced 2.82 lakh tons of walnuts in 2021-22 with J&K accounting for around 92 per cent of the produce. Anantnag and Kupwara are the leading producers of walnuts in Kashmir. Walnut cultivation continues to shrink steadily from 47,004 hectares in 2017-18, 46,118 hectares in 2018-2019, 46,175 hectares in 2019-2020, 46,134 hectares in 2020-2021 and 46,197 hectares in 2021-2022.

Director Horticulture Ghulam Rasool Mir said that 13 nurseries of high density walnut trees will be established this year in Kashmir. “We are also creating a mass awareness to raise the export figure,” he said. 

President dry-fruit growers association Kashmir, Bahadur Khan told The Dispatch that imposition of Goods and Services Tax/ VAT has taken a serious toll on walnut import in Kashmir.