SRINAGAR: Kashmir Inc. has sent an SOS to Jammu and Kashmir government seeking loan waiver and Rs 5000 monthly cash assistance for the artisans as goods worth Rs 600 crores lie unsold in the valley.
A four-member delegation of senior members of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) led by former president Javed Ahmad Tenga met Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Padurang K Pole and sought his immediate attention to help artisans rendered jobless due to the economic slump.
Other members of the delegation include Nasir Hamid Khan, former Senior Vice President and Faiz Ahmad Bakshi, former Secretary-General.
Javed Ahmad Tenga appreciated the vital role of Pole in the successful management of COVID in Kashmir. He invited the attention of Pole towards the serious situation building up in the Handicrafts Sector and stated that a goods inventory of around Rs 600 Crores was lying unsold.
He said this would not only help in the liquidation of stocks without any extra burden on the purchases as this expenditure is already budgeted and would prove to be a super booster for this sector. In the meantime, he urged that monthly cash assistance of Rs.5,000 be provided for our artisans and weavers.
“In view of the delicate condition of artisans and weavers who have lost the capacity to meet their loan obligations and with the view of providing them with a fresh start, it is necessary that the loans given to artisans and weavers be completely waived off. The principal loan amount per artisan was a meager Rs 90,000 and the whole impact on the Government would be in the vicinity of only Rs. 200 crores which were nothing when compared to farmer loan waivers announced by various States ranging between Rs 1,000 crores to Rs 60,000 crores,” he said.
Nasir Hamid Khan said it was necessary that the category of permissible activities be expanded to include bakeries, departmental stores/supermarkets, automobile dealers/service centers, books and stationery shops.
He stated that the sectors dealing in perishable items needed to be permitted to operate round the clock so that fresh edible items are available to the population and unnecessary rush is avoided at these places. He said shopping areas having minimal customer movement like the Polo View Market and other similar zones are heavily dependent on tourism.
“It is suggested that there should be permitted to open for five days in a week till the time the tourist inflow increases at which time the administration may take a call keeping in view the COVID pandemic management,” he said.
Faiz Bakshi raised the issues related to the tourism sector. He stated that with the steady reduction of COVID cases and rise in temperatures across the country, tourist arrivals were expected to increase.
“In this regard, it was important that a foolproof testing and detection mechanism was put in place both at the airport and road entry points for the incoming tourists and other people,” he said.
Faiz requested urged the government to consider automatic renewal/extension of registrations/licences of Hotels, Restaurants, Travel Agents/Tour Operators and Houseboats with the Department of Tourism, Municipal Corporation, and other Departments for one year till March 31, 2022.
He also urged for waiver of fixed demand charges for electricity and water for the COVID period and reduction in the Municipal charges. He also suggested that cash assistance for Houseboat Owners, Travel Agents/Tour Operators and Hospitality Sector also needed to be considered.
Faiz also appreciated Pole for taking steps in the restoration of Khushalsar Lake. He stated that the preservation and upkeep of our water bodies were very important for our tourism sector. He stated that similar interventions should also be carried out for all other water bodies and waterways.
He called for the development of the Kashmir Triassic Fossil Park at Khunmoh. He sought the intervention of Pole for utilization of Rs 50 lakh through the Department of Tourism earmarked under the Smart City Project for fencing and creating infrastructure at this site. He also stated that the discovery of Woolly Mammoth at Galandar had evoked a lot of interest in the presence of more such fossils in Kashmir and this also needed to be explored.
Responding to the suggestions, Pole sought details about the handicrafts stocks lying unsold and assured the delegation that the suggestion would be considered favorably. He said that the suggestions about the expansion of the permissible activities in lockdown would also be considered.
He said the government was also hopeful that the tourist inflow would be picking up in the coming months and in this regard it was important to ensure that COVID appropriate behavior is demonstrated by the tourism stakeholders including shikarawallas and pony-wallahs. He said that the stakeholders should hold proper awareness programs for all persons coming in direct contact with the tourists so that the business cycle goes on uninterrupted or with minimum disruption.
The delegation also informed Pole that in view of the elections of the KCCI getting postponed due to the lockdown imposed in April, the institution was suffering due to the absence of an elected body. They proposed that the elections could be held in a staggered manner spread over a period of one week due to the COVID situation. Pole stated that the proposal should be forwarded to the Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar who has been directed to supervise the election process by the High Court.
He requested Pole to support the suggestion for the Central and State Governments, PSU’s and Institutions to reserve a minor percentage of their routine purchases for Kashmir Brand of Handicraft products including walnut furniture, carpets and chain-stitch rugs, shawls, paper machie, crewel furnishings and other products.