Srinagar, Aug 22: Unrest due to abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35 A has forced cancellation of thousands of marriage functions in Kashmir valley, badly affecting people associated with the sector, which has lost revenue to the tune of crores of rupees, according to sources. Normal life remained crippled as shops and business establishments were closed and traffic was off the roads for the 18th successive day on Thursday due to restrictions imposed by authorities and strike against the scrapping of special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government on August 5 scrapped Article 370 and Article 35 A, which gave special status to J&K, triggering massive outrage among people in the valley, where thousands of marriage functions were cancelled due to unrest following restrictions and strike during the peak marriage season. Marriages are being conducted in a simple manner in presence of close family members and friends across the valley. People are finding it difficult to communicate cancellation of the functions to the invited guests.
The marriages in the valley were no more a low key affair as the industry had grown exponentially during the last about a decade, making it one of the most revenue generating unorganised sectors with lakhs of people associated with it directly or indirectly. An average cost of a marriage ranges between Rs 5 lakh to Rs 20 lakh while a high end marriage can cost upto over Rs 50 to Rs 1 crore in Kashmir. But as the situation remains tense in the valley in view of the scrapping of the special status of J&K, people are forced to cut down on lavish marriage functions and other spending, badly affecting the industry at its peak season.
Top players of this industry claim that revenue to the tune of crores of rupees has been lost due to the cancellations of the functions, badly affecting lakhs of people associated with the sector, including caterers, cooks (wazas), butchers, decorators, bakers, disposable item dealers etc. ''The peak season of marriages is between July and September. But, the unrest in the valley has badly affected the marriage industry as people are being forced to cancel functions and other ceremonies.
Due to these cancellations, lakhs of people have lost their source of income while others, who have procured items required for these functions, are facing acute financial crunch as it is highly unlikely that they will be able to sell their products,'' Shabir Ahmad, owner of a catering company said. He said the most affected are sheep and chicken traders, who have procured the livestock from outside the state, in the hope of catering to the needs of the marriage functions.
''The farm owners are selling chicken as low as Rs 60 per kg as there is non-availability of feed due to restrictions and strike and abysmal demand in the market following cancellation of marriage functions,'' Mr Ahmad said. Bookings cancelled Farooz Khan, a Kashmiri waza (cook) by profession, said that all the bookings, which he had received for preparing wazwan (Kashmiri cuisine) during marriage functions, have been cancelled. ''July, August and September are the peak months during which marriages take place in the valley.
We were jam-packed till October first week, but now due to the unrest all the bookings for the next over a fortnight have been cancelled and situation remains grim even after that. We only cook for marriage parties and as the functions are being cancelled we have been left with no work,'' Mr Khan said. Mr Khan said that like other Kashmiri wazas, he and his team (30 people), work only during these months and then have to spend the money earned for a whole year. ''Now that we have not earned anything, it will be difficult to cater to the needs of our families.
We charge about Rs 20,000 per quintal of meat which comes to around Rs 80,000 if on an average four quintals of meat were utilised during marriage functions. So we earn a decent amount of money. But things are different this time,” he added. Similar views were expressed by disposable item and beverage dealers. People are finding it hard to communicate about cancellation of marriage functions to the guests due to communication gag. ''We have to cancel the marriage function of my son, which was scheduled to be held on August 9, due to unrest in the valley.
It was difficult the cancel the arrangements made for the function, including catering, Kashmiri Wazwan, marriage hall, as there was no means to communicate,'' Shakil Khan, who lives in Srinagar said. Mr Khan said that he lost the deposits which he had given to the marriage hall, catering, butcher, videographer and other for the function.
“Communicating about the cancellation of the marriage function was another challenge as mobile phones, internet and landline services are down from last about a fortnight. I got the cancellation advertisement published on a newspaper and broadcasted on a news channel, but many people came to attend the function. I was embarrassing as we had to turn down the guests as there were no arrangements made,” he added.UNI