Mehroosh Tak

Country Expert:

Lecturer in Agribusiness at Royal Veterinary College, University of London

Dr. Mehroosh Tak is a lecturer in Agribusiness at RVC. She is an applied economist researching agricultural policies and food systems in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). Much of her work evaluates nutrition-sensitivity of programmes and policies using approaches from development economics including micro-econometrics and mixed methods. Dr. Tak regularly provides monitoring and evaluation expertise on food systems and nutrition financing to international donors, such as the Department for International Development (DFID), UNICEF and the Gates Foundation.

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Civil Society & Marginalised Groups

Edited by Gianluca Parolin and Sanaa Alimia. Working Paper Series for the Governance Programme at the Aga Khan University, Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations, London. 2020.

Submission Date: 15 June, 2020

Question #1: Public Trust

Is the government response to the pandemic being met with public approval? Please specify where this assessment is taken from, i.e. YouGov Poll, newspaper headlines, etc.

A lockdown within a lockdown.

The pandemic related lockdown was implemented after region had observed a lockdown since 5th August 2019, when the special status of the region under the Indian constitution was revoked. Since, the region has been marred with a communication blackout, which was only removed on 28th January 2020 with limited 2G internet service only to be curtailed again on 7th May 2020. Interestingly, the Indian government has used COVID-19 lockdown measures to restrict movement of people again particularly in Kashmir Valley that is essentially observing a lockdown within a lockdown.

At the time of writing, India surpassed Italy as the sixth worse affected country by COVID-19 globally. While, the Indian government lifts certain restrictions in the country continues the lockdown in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) continues. [1]

The Indian government’s key strategy to tackle COVID-19 is to categorise areas into a three tier zoning systems based on the number of cases in the area.

1. Red zone districts have the highest burden of infection; here infection rates have doubled in four or less days. Movement of the public in red zones is restricted and there is almost no public transport.

2. Orange zones have a limited number of cases; some public transport and farm product harvesting is allowed.

3. Green zones are districts with no new reported case for 21 days. Partial movement is allowed in these zones.

On 30th April 2020, the Indian Union Health Ministry released a list of district zoning category, which was to be implemented on 3rd May 2020 with only 4 districts in the red zone. However, on 2nd May 2020 the Govt. of J&K overruled the categorization and declared all of Kashmir as a red zone. Entire Jammu was categorised as orange zone. Many in J&K saw this categorization

of Kashmir Valley as red zone to an attempt to restrict movement of people in the region on the backdrop of an ongoing struggle for political rights by Kashmiris. Since, a new government order by the Department of Disaster Management of J&K on 19th May 2020 has categorized Jammu districts in all three zones and moved two Kashmiri districts of Ganderbal and Bandipora to orange zones.



[1] This piece refers to the Indian Administered region of J&K now called the Union territory (UT) J&K. The data does not include the region of Leh and Ladakh.

Question #2: Accurate Statistics?

Are accurate statistics on infection rates and death rates available? If so, who is producing this information? And is this information trusted by the public?

There is a longer-standing internet shutdown in Kashmir put in place by the Indian government since the abrogation of the regions special status. On the outbreak of pandemic in J&K, the Department of Ecology, Environment and Remote Sensing launched JK COVID-19 online dashboard. The internet shutdown means this however, has been nonoperational since 5th May 2020. The suspension of 2G internet has disrupted the door-to-door health audit being conducted by the government as employees conducting the health survey using a mobile app “Swasthya Nidhi” were unable to complete their work. Contact tracing apps used to capture spread of the virus are obsolete as 4G internet services have not been restored since 5th August 2019.

Primary information on COVID-19 hospital reported cases are released by the Department of Information and Public Relations (DIPR), Govt of Jammu & Kashmir. A team of young Kashmiris have started tracing district level figures by using DIPR daily bulletins. The team use “reputed media publications for details like Age & Gender” to match with DIPR data. Details of the website can be found here- The website is not affiliated or in collaboration with any Organization/Government. Figure 1 and figure 2 represent the number of COVID-19 cases by district in J&K.

Figure 1: District wise cases of COVID-19 in J&K
Source: Figure by author based on data is sourced from Media bulletin on Novel Corona Virus dated 09.06.2020 by Govt of UT of J&K.
Figure 2: Total COVID-19 cases per million by district in J&K

Question #3: Support for the Vulnerable

In instances of a lockdown, what support is available for vulnerable persons, i.e. domestic abuse victims, less able bodied persons?

Since August 2019, long before COVID-19 emerged, Kashmir has already been under a lockdown. The pressures of life under lockdown have increased since the pandemic began as the lockdown and movement restriction continues for the 10th month. Unfortunately, support under lockdown since August 2019 has been limited to community projects. Multiple charities are supporting local communities with healthcare, food and educational support. In fact, on 6th May 2020 a 15 year old boy, named Hazim Bhat who had severe neurological ailments was killed by the security forces during a clash between militants. Unfortunately, for Hazim Bhat’s family, the teenager’s body was not returned to the family for burial rights as the army feared large funeral gatherings that could undermine social distancing measures.

Question #4: Marginalised Groups

What are some of the challenges that marginalized groups, i.e. low-income households, religious/ ethnic minorities, face with regards to the pandemic?

The region of J&K has only 208 ventilators across both public and private healthcare institutions to tackle severe cases of COVID-19. See Figure 3 for data across Jammu and Kashmir. The statistics on availability of COVID-19 equipment suggest two critical points. First, that there is 1 ventilator per 71,000 people and 1 isolation bed per 6,317 people approximately in the region. In addition, there is only 1 doctor per 3,866 persons in the region. In comparison, the Indian average is 1 doctor per 2,000 people, while WHO recommends 1 per 1000 persons. Although 400 additional ventilators have been ordered by the govt. only 34 have been received as of 17th April 2020. Second, the availability of ventilators varies across districts. For example Bandipora district has no ventilator, while Baramulla district has six ventilators, Kulgam has one, Budgam has five, and Pattan has only three ventilators. The numbers are particularly disturbing as J&K is the only Muslim majority region in India and lends toward claims of discrimination by the right-Hindu nationalist government in power.


In particular, the agrarian economy has been severely affected by the lockdown as movement of labour was restricted since August 2019. Its repercussions are now being observed on food security and poverty in the region. Many fear that they may die of poverty instead of COVID-19. Error! Reference source not found. below represents this sentiment amongst Kashmiris.

Figure 3: Availability of COVID19 Equipment in J&K

Source: Figure created by author based on data from Greater Kashmir.

Question #5: Local Activism

How are local community groups and/or political groups responding to the pandemic in terms of providing support/ relief to vulnerable persons and/or marginalized groups?

Most of the relief work conducted in Kashmir is being conducted via local communities and charities. Kashmiri diaspora are collectively organizing funds for on the ground charities. Some examples include, Kashmir Box, raising funds for a Ramadan Relief Kit to distribute food and essentials to vulnerable families. The Social reform Organisation (SRO), Athrout, Chinar Child Nurture and Relief and Kashmir Education Initiative are some other examples. Diasporic groups are also raising funds for the region where international NGOs are not allowed to venture due to the Indian government’s restriction on international organisations receiving donations from abroad.

Figure 4: Meme from Kashmir on COVID-19
Translation from Urdu to English: “Unhonay enko maara”/  “I swear, he killed him.”
Source: Memes taken from Facebook page of Kashmir Crown taken from twitter.

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