Why Kashmir’s economy is in ruin, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur explains


Tasawar Jalali, who traces his roots to Kashmir, holds leadership roles at different multinational companies in Silicon Valley.

He is the co-founder and CEO of Securenode & Co-founder of Smashon Inc, an online health and wellness portal. Jalali holds a BS in Engineering, an MBA in Technology Management, and a masters in Information Management Systems from Harvard University.

He is an angel investor, technology entrepreneur, philanthropist and a cybersecurity industry veteran. He is a mentor and advisor to numerous startups, entrepreneurs all over Silicon Valley and sits on the board of directors for nonprofit school in Kashmir.

Last year August 5, Jammu and Kashmir was put under an administrative lockdown, its special status granted under Article 370 of the Indian Consitution taken away, and its geography carved up by the Indian government of prime minister Narendra Modi.

Jammu and Kashmir, it is pretty well documented, was one of the more prosperous states of India. French-origin Indian economist Jean Dreze had, three days after the Indian government’s move to strip the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir, had explained with data how, “in almost any economic or social indicator, Jammu and Kashmir is way ahead of Gujarat.”

But since then the economy of Kashmir has been in free fall, says Jalali in a chat with indica News. Excerpts:

Tasawar Jalali

The annual export of apples from Kashmir stand at $235 million per year, followed by handicrafts that are exported to India and Europe stand at staggering $300 million per year. The tourism industry produces $85 million a year. The state is rich in minerals, which are estimated at $44 billion, and hydro resources at $25 billion.

However, a deepening economic crisis in Kashmir since August 5, 2019, which has slashed hundreds of thousands of jobs and closed down industries, is causing the economy of the state to spiral downwards.

The state recorded highest rate of unemployment, which as per some sources stand at 70 percent in July 2020. The advertisement for Class-4 jobs (janitorial jobs) by the public authorities for 8,000 vacancies attracted 350,000 applications. The state has a population of 12 million out of which 500,000 are government employees (approximately 100,000 retired employees living on pension) but the rest of the 11.5 million people are living an economic nightmare.

One of the largest financial institutes in Jammu & Kashmir, JK Bank, has seen a drop of 1200 percent in its stock prices from its peak in 2014 (Rs180/Rs15).

Several businesses have closed down and abandoned the state in search of opportunities outside the state or country.

Drastically deteriorating economic conditions are already immense and rising at a pace that threatens to outstrip and even overwhelm the existing fabric of the society.

Months of financial turmoil and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and measures to stem its spread have seen Kashmiri business houses plunge, with a devastating domino effect on people’s income.

We have an economic crisis that is even larger than any nation. Nations exist to create physical and economic security. Where its citizens are offered equal opportunity to thrive economically and intellectually, and guaranteed justice, and peace.

If a nation can’t guarantee these basic fundamental requirements to its citizen, the existence of the nation itself is meaningless.

The globalization of economies, increased competition for cheaper labor, emerging technologies, and changing customer demographics requires the world to rethink political strategies. The foremost thing in that thinking is to shun divisive politics.

To remain competitive, countries must explore ways to cooperate and improve the efficiency of business strategy to maximize return on investments. The strategy of conferring favors to big businesses and indulging in divisive politics is harmful for every nation.

The economic crisis is unfolding against a backdrop of deep humanitarian needs across the entire Jammu & Kashmir, including schools and hospitals devastated, and a population exhausted by repeated mass restrictions on the Internet and freedom of movement.

Financial mismanagement, deliberate or not, has caused the financial crisis and added to the sufferings of people in Kashmir to unprecedented levels.”