Jammu, Jan 17: Minister for Finance, Dr Haseeb Drabu Wednesday said the wide-ranging fiscal and welfare measures announced in the State budget are aimed at setting JK’s sluggish economy on the path of revival and recovery.
“It took this Government three years to restore the rotten fiscal system, put in place a sustainable Public Expenditure Policy and set the State’s economy on the path of steady recovery and revival,” Dr Drabu said while winding up the discussion of the Budget proposals in the Legislative Council today.
Enumerating, the Finance Minister said, that J&K has landed up in a serious fiscal crisis because of various long and short term reasons including protracted political turmoil, 2014 floods, 2016 disturbances, demonetization and GST. “When I talk of fiscal crisis, let me make it clear, I am not talking about the Government finances, but the entire economic system involving every section of the society,” he said and added that the only way to set the State’s economy on the recovery and revival path is to enhance autonomous public expenditure, which is the basic theme of this Budget.
He said the fundamental intent of making it a stakeholders’ Budget is to generate income across various levels of people, pump public money into the system and push economic revival through a sustained effort. “That is why we have announced various measures in this budget so that money keeps continuously flowing and circulating in the system to keep the economy enduring,” Dr Drabu said and added that these measures would facilitate greater flow of cash in the system which would go a long way in the revival the sluggish economy.
Defending his decision of extending various financial benefits to the employees, he said there are 4.5 lakh employees and every employee has a family of at least five persons. “That means that a population of around 25 lakh souls is directly linked to the government. If they spend, the economy improves, if they save money, it also helps,” he said and added that the same dictum is the main reason for amnesties that are a part of the budget. “When we announce some amnesty, we actually write off somebody’s liability and when there is no liability, it automatically becomes income,” he explained.
He said the focus of the renewed fiscal policy is to enlarge constituency of peace, restore dignity of the state and its people and make it relevant for the times that we live in and essentially for the stakeholders. “This is perhaps the first budget that is not about the government departments but the stakeholders encompassing every section of the society including poorest of the poor, marginalized, employees, traders, industrialists, agriculturists, women, girls, students, youth and destitute,” Dr Drabu said and added that he wanted to make this budget relevant for the times and the people of the State and its economy. “And I am contended that I have achieved the objective to a significant extent,” he said and added that with the budgetary edifice in place, now is the time to consolidate the fiscal and budgetary reforms at the departmental level for sustained and self-generating efficiency gains.
Dr Drabu reiterated that the system building started in 2015 has a positive impact, Dr Drabu said the biggest proof is that perhaps for the first time in the budgetary history of J&K, the revised estimates for the current year are much better than the budget estimates that he had presented last year.
Enumerating he said, three numbers stand out: tax revenues were estimated to be Rs 9931 crore. These have been exceeded and in the process, we have crossed the Rs 10000 crore mark of own tax collection. “Second, I had estimated an unfunded resource gap of over Rs 3000 crores. As the year comes to an end, I have a surplus of more than Rs 1300 crore. Third, the fiscal deficit which is regarded to be the single most important indicator of fiscal performance was estimated at around 9.5 percent but has actually turned out to be around 5.7 percent; an improvement of nearly 400 basis points. This is unprecedented,” he said and added that because of a well-run financial setup, the Govt is now able to take decisions that change lives of the people for good, especially for the most vulnerable and marginalized.
The Finance Minister observed that the state imports more from other states than it exports and hence more money goes out of the system. He said to attract more investment in the state, the government need to handhold and incentivise the industry to attract more investments that will help to increase the flow of money in the system. Dr Drabu informed that in 2012-13, out of one rupee, 36 paisa were going out of the state towards imports while it has been gradually brought down up to 30 paisa this year that has helped to retain more money in the state. He said the government has also been able to reduce the GPF liability from Rs 20000 crore to Rs 8000 crore besides reducing the liabilities of power and other concerned agencies.
He said the Government is at the same time trying to bring up a new rural fiscal architecture by linking Panchayats with Rural and Cooperative Banks. “We want to effectively revive the institutions of rural local governance in the State with a sustainable supportive fiscal system side by side,” he said and added that the capital infusion of Rs 250 crore to three Cooperative Banks and the decision to connect these banks with the Panchayats will provide regular fund flow to these banks. He said a parallel financial structure has been initiated for empowering the Panchayats and further boosting the rural economy.
Speaking on the recent initiative taken by the government for construction workers, the Minister said that in the last three years, the funds have been increased for their welfare including insurance cover, overdraft facility and other measures for the construction workers.
Elaborating on the provisions kept in the Budget for Agriculture, sector, Dr Drabu said that the focus of the government is to promote commercial agriculture to transform the rural economy for which the spending is more than 10 times. He further said that Horticulture is a major part of agriculture sector and thrust is on professionalizing these sectors to generate more employment.
The Finance Minister said that the government has recently increased the minimum wages of un-skilled, skilled and highly skilled workers and this move will in turn raise the market wages prevailing in the state thereby increasing the incomes of the poorest. He further said the proposed uniform Labour Code will be a landmark initiative for the welfare of the labourers.
Defending the decision of keeping the Toll Tax regime intact in the GST era, Dr Drabu said it is vital to the policy making in the state. “It is not a matter of revenue as that is too small an amount,” he said. “It is vital to the requirements of the state to know what and how much comes and goes out of the State. It is the only gateway we have and the information is required for the protection of the local industry. Trade balance is something that we must always know and the gap in it is surging.”
Dr Drabu said the toll tax has been there since 1938. Between 2003 and 2010, it increased by half and now it saw a marginal shift and it has suddenly become an issue. “Toll is more important for protection of local industry,” he said.
Responding to the concerns of the Legislators regarding J&K Bank, Dr Drabu assured the House that although he favours complete autonomy in the functioning of the Bank, but as a regulator he will take the requisite measures to address the issues concerning the Bank. “We would look into the issues, if any, in the JK Bank and ensure that its functioning is made more transparent. However, it should not be a reason for getting the issue to the House for a debate because it has costs for the finance institution,” he maintained.
Zakir Musa’s successor killed, Ansar Gazwatul Hind wiped out: DGP
Srinagar, Oct 23: Director General of Police Dilbag Singh Wednesday claimed that they have wiped out militant outfit Ansar Gazwatul Hind (AGH) from Jammu and Kashmir after security forces killed its last three surviving militants including the successor of slain Zakir Musa, in an encounter at Rajpora in Pulwama district on Tuesday evening.
“Three militants were killed in Rajpora. They were later identified as Hamid Lone alias Hamid Lelhari of Lelhari village Kakpora, Naveed Ahmad Tak of Batpora and Junaid Rashid of Nowdal Tral. All the three were associated with Ansar Gazwatul Hind, which now has been wiped out from the valley,” Singh told reporters.
The DGP said the trio was “involved in many attacks on forces and killing of civilians in Pulwama district.”
“After killing of Zakir Musa, Lelhari took command of the AGH. He had joined the militant group in 2016 and since then he was involved in many militant activities. Lelhari had motivated these two slain militants to join his group. He was a part of the group, which attacked forces in Kakapora. Lelhari along with another militant Yasir had killed two Gujjars recently in the area,” he said.
DGP noted that Junaid Rashid was the second militant of his family to have been killed by the forces. “We feel very sad for that. These work at the behest of Pakistan based agencies,” he said.
Singh said the slain militants were working in coordination with Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) and Laskhar-e-Toiba (LeT). “Jaish is currently trying to coordinate with every militant group operating in the valley. Both JeM and LeT decide the targets and work in coordination with other groups,” he said.
DGP used the occasion to appeal the youth to shun militancy saying “taking to weapons is like inviting death.”
“Weapon creates an environment of death. We wish such activities are stopped. Youth should shun militancy to restore peace in the valley,” Singh said.
The DGP claimed the situation in the valley has improved after August 5 and youth joining militancy has shown a downward trend during the period.
“People were of the notion that militancy will increase after August 5. But the momentum of youth joining militant ranks has come down drastically during the period. People have now set up their stall and kiosks on roads everywhere to do their routine business,” he said.
Singh said that only five to six youth have gone missing from their homes after August 5. “We can’t be sure that they have joined any militant group. There can be other reasons behind their decision to leave home,” he said.
Asked whether there was any possibility of Pulwama like attack, he said: “Forces are alert on ground to respond to these threats.”
“It is difficult to anticipate anything since there have been many threats by Pakistan including their Prime Minister. Pulwama like incidents can happen anywhere. But if we face such situation, we are alert on ground to take care of these threats,” Singh said.
Asked about reports of detentions in south Kashmir, Singh said: “Propaganda is created by certain media houses without verifying the news”
“This is clearly a misinformation and propaganda. We always verify about the possible OGW network or either associates of militants before picking any person. Later verification follows and then they are being freed after proper counselling,” he said.
DGP said out of five people arrested, four are later released. “We are not fond of keeping people in custody unnecessarily. 17000 cases are being registered ever year by the police and it doesn’t mean we pick and torture them. In case of juveniles, the age is being verified and then legal action follows. We follow Juvenile Justice Act,” he said
On the reports of withdrawing post-paid phone services again in the valley, Singh said they take every decision after considering the ground situation.
“Phones were blocked after assessing of situation. Same procedure was followed when the service was resumed,” he said.
The DGP said that proper security arrangements will be put in place for conducting exams in the valley. “Exams are in the interest of children and their parents. Whenever need arises we are ready to help them by ensuring proper security. We appeal children not to spoil their career,” he said.
Singh said police has put in place security arrangement for Block Development Council election on Thursday. “We have directed SPs to make every security arrangement in their respective zones,” he said.
DGP noted that they have reviewed the security “to ensure protection of the people particularly those associated with apple trade.”
“There were some unfortunate incidents when militants targeted two truckers, a labourer and apple trader. People took it serious and condemned the act. They (militants) can interfere to the extent of killing people who do their routine work, but we have now reviewed the security. We have now intensified our operation against militants,” he said.
Sizable infiltration post Aug 5:DGP
Srinagar, Oct 23: Director General of Police Dilbag Singh Wednesday admitted that sizable infiltration has taken place after August 5 when Centre abrogated Article 370 and divided state into two union territories.
“Some infiltration by militants has taken place. However many of their attempts to sneak in have been foiled. Now we see ceasefire violation in Rajouri, Poonch, Samba, Hiranagar, Karnah, Uri, Machil, Gurez and Keran every day. Ceasefire violation is aimed at pushing militants into Kashmir,” Singh said.
The DGP said the exact number of militants who have sneaked in can’t be known, but the infiltration has been a sizable one.
“We feel the number is sizable. But I don’t see the number that big to worry us. Process is on to bring their number down,” he said.
Singh said lesser number of militants was worrying Pakistan and that is why “they are trying to push in more infiltrators”.
Dumping of construction waste: Kashmir stares at environmental disaster
Srinagar, Oct 23: An environmental disaster is unfolding in Kashmir as more than 6650 metric tonnes of construction and demolition (C&D) waste is brazenly dumped along the river banks and vacant lands annually.
Official document accessed by The Kashmir Monitor reveal that total C&D waste generated in Kashmir for 2018-2019 was 6650.28 metric tonnes.
The construction and demolition waste management rules 2016 apply to every waste resulting from construction, re-modeling, repair and demolition of any civil structure of individual or organization or authority which generates construction and demolition waste such as building materials, debris and rubble.
However, in absence of any collection and disposal of C&D waste, the waste is being dumped on unused vacant lands, along river banks. “The waste is disposed of by owners themselves on completion of construction work as per municipal authorities and only unclaimed waste is transported by local bodies. “There is no progress as far as identification of sites is concerned for processing of C&D waste,” the document reads.
The urban local bodies (ULBs) are responsible for the management of construction and demolition waste.
“As per the rules, the ULBs should chalk out stages, methodology and equipment, material involved in the overall activity and final clean up after completion of the C&D waste,” said an official at the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB).
Environmentalist Dr Arshid said dumping the waste along the river banks can prove detrimental to fragile environment. “The waste carries increased amount of dust load which can deteriorate the water quality. It erodes over a period of time and can increase turbidity,” he said
Director State Pollution Control Board, Rafi Ahmed: “As per rules, the municipal corporations are bound to identify a separate landfill site for the proper disposing off of C&D waste. They are currently in process of identifying some sites for the waste.”