Internet shutdowns across Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir impacted business in general, and the agri-business and tourism sectors, in particular.
In J&K, tourism and horticulture have taken a hit while in UP, kharif harvest and sale were affected, with farmers unable to communicate effectively with traders and markets, and with the online payment process coming to a halt.
Farmer leader from Bulandshahr, DP Singh, says the shutdown has further distressed the local economy. Singh, who produces sugarcane, wheat, mustard and rice, says the sale of foodgrains was disrupted during the blockade. “This is the time we sell our farm produce, mainly rice, in the local markets. Online payments are pending and farmers are in distress. Traders want to pay money but since the payment is online, they are also facing a difficult situation,” he says.
His area is a sugarcane belt. “Sugarcane payments and arrears are also prepared online. All Jan Sewa Kendra s (facilitation centres) that provide various certificates for farmers from government departments have also not been working because of the shutdown. The Public Distribution System has been punctured, leaving poor people in distress. The total economy is in distress,” he reiterates.
Jitender Hooda, a farmer from Shamli district in Western UP, rues that bank transactions and payment of cane arrears were blocked at a crucial time in western Uttar Pradesh. “Also, since the situation was insecure, we could not go to our fields. Internet shutdown has not impacted farming activities, but we could not sell our produce those days. More than farmers, small traders who make a living by buying and selling farm produce suffered due to the shutdown; e-way bills were not processed.”
In Kashmir, the shutdown has impacted horticulture, tourism and the handicrafts industries. Traders in Parimpora with whom BusinessLine spoke during the initial days of shutdown had said they were unable to talk to other traders in Delhi and Punjab who used to buy fruits, dry fruits and nuts from Sopore and Parimpora markets.
CPI(M) leader and former MLA, Jammu and Kashmir, Mohd Yusuf Tarigami, says the net is now an important component in day-to-day life and the shutdown has badly impacted the business, education and social sectors in Kashmir, besides tourism and agriculture. “Nowhere in the world have people faced internet shutdown continuously for five months. This is unparalleled,” he says.
Life in Kashmir is not normal, as is being projected, he states. “Students could not file their application for NEET examinations. Applications for scholarships, particularly for researchers, could not be processed, as also applications for government schemes such as MGNREGA and medical insurance. Even GST returns could not be filed,” he says.
Tourism in Kashmir is dependent on the internet as most of the booking is done online. “Concerns of tourists could not be addressed by hoteliers. Our carpet industry and artisans working with it have also been affected. Whatever they made or prepared used to get sold through internet platforms for the international market,” says Tarigami.
“The situation of horticulturists is terrible. Fruit and dry fruit merchants are facing losses worth thousands of crores. We are yet to calculate the actual losses,” says Tarigami. The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee delegation that visited the valley has calculated a loss of ₹7,000 crore for farmers and one main reason is the issue in communication with the traders due to internet and telephone shutdown.
Samajwadi Party MP Javed Ali Khan, who travelled to various districts in Uttar Pradesh during the anti CAA protests and shutdowns that followed, says “The healthcare sectors too have been affected. Pathology labs in Sambhal in Uttar Pradesh could not give reports to patients due to lack of internet. Education needs of students, online trading and bank transactions were hit. In Agra and other tourism centres, tourist flow was affected due to disruption in online hotel booking.”
Farmers too are dependent on the internet for soil testing and finding the best price and market. However, “as the use of internet is not prevalent among farmers in UP, the impact may not be huge,” says Khan.