Internet blockade in Kashmir pushes hundreds to the verge of unemployment

"If the situation persists, we will either quit or seek transfer"

Mobile internet services 'temporarily disconnected' in Jammu region Security personnel stand guard at a check-point, during curfew like restrictions following the abrogation of the provisions Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, in Srinagar | PTI

Tumbling cell phone sales due to internet blockade in Kashmir has pushed hundreds working in mobile phone outlets to the verge of unemployment. Workers from several retail outlets in Srinagar told THE WEEK that they have not received their salaries as they were unable to mark their attendance online.

They said that if the situation persists, they would either quit or seek transfer. “I have a family of four to support, and since my salary hasn’t been released, we are facing a tough situation,’’ said Ahmed, who works as a salesman at a prominent smartphone manufacturer outlet in Srinagar.

He said he gets a salary of 14,000 rupees, only after he meets the target of selling 26 phones a month. “Since sales have declined due to the internet ban, I have not been able to meet my target,’’ he said.

There are 1,450 of the above-mentioned company's outlets, employing at least 8,000 workers. Most of them have not been able to meet their target, or receive their salary. The owner of one of the outlets told THE WEEK that the company has blacklisted Kashmir due to sharp decline in sales.

He said, before the ban on internet, they would sell at least 150 pieces a day. “But now, the sales are in single digits,’’ he said. “ Our regional distributor would do a billing for Rs 25 core before August 5, but now it is only Rs 85 lakh.”

Another owner of an outlet said that the service centres of cell phone companies shut down after the removal of Article 370. “The service centres would also earn through repairs, and order of new parts, but all that has stopped,’’ he said. He said, for the people of Kashmir, smartphones were no longer smart due to internet blockade.

The internet ban in Kashmir has also impacted other services like internet banking, online shopping and health schemes like much-touted Ayushmann Bharat insurance; the private hospitals treating those covered under these schemes have not been receiving their payments online.