Conflicts & War

Kidney On Sale: Economic fallout of back-to-back lockdowns in Indian Kashmir

By Sarwar Kashani

Qazigund, India, Dec 30 (efe-epa).- Nearly two years ago, Sabzar Khan, a 26-year-old businessman, expanded his construction business that was already growing rapidly in Qazigund, the gateway to the idyllic Kashmir Valley, nestled in the Indian Himalayas.

But soon after he raised funds by securing loans from a bank and local lenders, the Indian government suddenly scrapped the disputed region’s semi-autonomous status on Aug.5, 2019, and enforced an unprecedented months-long security and communication lockdown.

The move marked the beginning of Kashmir’s economic devastation before another lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic in March this year sounded the death knell for businesses in the troubled region.

Khan, part of the section worst-hit by the two back-to-back lockdowns, has now put his kidney on sale in an advertisement published in the Srinagar-based Kashmir Reader.

His mother, 65, and wife, in her early 20s, have also agreed to sell their kidneys to help him raise “whatever funds possible” and repay the loans.

He said he had already sold off all his machines and whatever was left of his defunct venture.

“I have lost everything and I have to pay more than 9 million rupees ($122,700) in debt. If anyone needs to undergo kidney transplant, I am ready to sell my kidney,” the notice read.

Apart from his construction business, Khan alsoused to buy and sell second-hand vehicles before the debt started piling up when Kashmir slipped into turmoil in August last year.

“It all began when Article 370 (that gave the autonomous status to Kashmir) was removed,” Khan told EFE near his mud house home in Nussu village of Kulgam district, nearly 100 km south of Srinagar, the main city in Kashmir.

“First, it was a political and military lockdown. Then another lockdown due to Covid-19. The business was shut all these months.”

He is aware that Indian law does not allow kidney transplants for financial transactions and both the donor and recipient could be jailed for commercial trade in human organs.

“If it is illegal, then the government must come to my rescue,” he insisted.

Khan’s physically challenged father now “goes from house to house to collect eatables and cash to feed the family,” Bashir Ganai, a neighbor, told EFE.

The family is not alone in its suffering.

Nearly all Kashmiri businesspersons have endured hardships from being under siege and cut off from the world due to communication blackout for almost a year before the coronavirus lockdown was eased, albeit in a phased manner and later than the rest of India.

Kashmir trade bodies say an estimated $7 billion were lost in businesses and 500,000 jobs vanished in the nearly 17 months since the first lockdown.

According to a report by business lobby Kashmir Trade Alliance (KTA), the region has suffered a loss of more than 500 billion rupees due to the successive lockdowns since August 2019.

“It will take years before the Kashmir economy returns to normalcy,” KTA’s Aijaz Shahdar told EFE.

Mufti Salman, a tech entrepreneur, is also struggling after he quit his lucrative job in Bengaluru, called the Silicon Valley of India, to return to his hometown in Kashmir and use his learning in his homeland.

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