Srinagar: A delegation of members of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) led by former president Javed Ahmad Tenga Wednesday held a detailed interaction with the Advisor to the Lt Governor Baseer Khan and other senior officers at SKICC in which a Memorandum regarding the issues pertaining to trade, commerce and industry was submitted to the Government.
Other members of the delegation included Nasir Hamid Khan, Faiz Bakshi, Ashaq Shangloo, Wahid Malik, Umar Nazir Tibetbaqal, Lateef A Bhat and Majid Aslam Wafai.
Several pointers of the memorandum were discussed in detail and members of the delegation highlighted those concerning respective sectors.
In a statement, the Chamber said it drew the attention of the Government towards the plight of the vulnerable sections of the handicrafts sector and fervently appealed that cash assistance of at least Rs 5,000 per month be provided to them as also to other weaker sections of the economy including shikarawallahs, transporters, daily wagers and others to tide over the present situation.
Tenga raised the issue of the private sector who had to pay “huge salaries” to their employees without being able to operate their business.
“Giving examples of interventions given all over the world where Governments had stepped in and provided in some cases even upto 80 percent of the salaries to the private business enterprises he urged the Government to consider subsidising upto 50 percent of the salary expenditure,” the statement added.
Referring to the ongoing pandemic, KCCI said that while all economic interventions critically hinge on the assumption that there will be better business conditions in the near future, the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has prevented such a scenario.
“Economic activities have come to a grinding halt since ending April and the fight against controlling the virus appears to be continuing. Despite the Lt Governor announcing that the fight against Covid would go side by side with tourism and economic development, the severity of the pandemic has ensured that this noble intention is put on hold,” it added.
The Kashmir Chamber submitted several suggestions in its memorandum seeking very specific interventions which, it said, would help in limiting permanent damage to the economy.
In Finance & Banking, it suggested the Government to consider revisiting the Interest Subvention scheme which has been much appreciated by all the sectors of the economy.
“In this regard, we would suggest that an amount of Rs 950 Crores may additionally be earmarked for this purpose for disbursement on the same pattern. This would help the borrowers to tide over the present crisis. In view of the grave situation prevailing in the Valley, we suggest that all punitive actions by financial institutions especially under the SARFAESI Act be put on hold for the time being,” the Chamber said.
Weak and vulnerable sections belonging to all economic sectors like daily wagers, small traders, laborers, street vendors and hawkers, bus drivers and conductors, autorickshaw drivers, tourist taxi drivers need help due to their inability to earn a living.
“The Government may consider devising a mechanism for providing cash assistance to these sections which needs to be over and above the minimum wages prescribed. We suggest a monthly assistance of Rs 5,000,” the statement added.
The Handicrafts Sector of Kashmir, it said, could receive a huge boost if the Central Government would reserve a minor percentage of Central Government purchases as well as urge other State Governments throughout the country for purchase of Kashmiri Handicraft products including Shawls and Carpets, office furniture and interiors, stationery.
“There is little hope for this traditional sector of ours other than the Government adopting Brand Kashmir,” it added.
KCCI also suggested the government to consider activating the Government Arts Emporium which has assets all over the country for directly purchasing handicraft products directly from our artisans and weavers and aggressively marketing the same throughout the country.
As for the new Industrial Policy, the Chamber said that it provided “little relief for the existing and sick unit holders”.
“In the present situation, it is the existing and viable sick unit holders who can help in reviving the economy as they comprise local stakeholders well versed with the local conditions. The waiver of fixed electricity demand charges and other Government rentals and fees would also be a vital support mechanism for the local stakeholders,” it added.
For tourism, KCCI said that was a “justified demand from the tourism sector to be given benefits at par with the Industrial Sector including electricity rates being charged”.
“For the Hotel sector, it is suggested that the fixed demand charges for the Covid period may be waived off and electricity charges be restricted to actual consumption. Similarly, water charges which is being charged on commercial rates and is a big drain on the establishments in the absence of any business may also be waived off. The registrations of Hotels, Restaurants and Houseboats which have lapsed on the 31st of March, 2021 with the Department of Tourism, Municipal Corporation and other Departments may be automatically renewed/extended for a period of one year i.e the 31st of March, 2022. It is suggested that Municipal Taxes, Licence Fee and other charges may be waived off for the current year. It is also suggested that the cash assistance be extended to Houseboat Owners, Travel Agents/Tour Operators also,” it added.
The general trade sector, the chamber said, requires extension in the filing of GST returns which needs to be taken up with the GST Council.
“With regard to the continuous closure of business establishments, we suggest that the fixed demand charges be waived off for the period of lockdowns and electricity be charged as per actual usage. Regarding the loan accounts of traders, we urge for a special rehabilitation/restructuring facility as has been done for the MSME sector which would enable them to keep their accounts regular and their businesses operational,” it added.
As for the transport sector, KCCI said the September 2020 revival package had announced several measures including relief to the tune of Rs 80.00 Crores, 50% subsidy for replacement of old buses for Rs 25.00 Crores, 50 Crores for providing insurance cover.
“Similar measures on a larger scale need to be introduced for this year also as this sector is in a worse condition than September, 2020. Additionally, the licence fee, token charges and all other taxes need to be waived off for the period of lockdown when the stakeholders were in no position of ply their vehicles,” it said.
Shops, vendors selling essential goods, the chamber said, may be allowed to be open round the clock so that the rush is reduced to a minimum.
“It is also necessary to ensure a safe corridor for the movement of goods as also encouraging the culture of home deliveries which would save the goods from getting expired and also generate revenue for the Government by way of taxes. The closure of departmental stores/supermarkets would create a huge inventory of dead stocks which can be avoided by allowing them to operate their units for home deliveries only. The Government had allowed these activities last year as well. This step would also help in keeping a majority of the population indoors as was done last year. We have reports of dealers of essential food products/FMCG facing difficulties in getting supplies because of the Corona Curfew,” it added.