New Delhi, Apr 5: A high-power business delegation led by Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI) president Sheikh Ashiq on Tuesday called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and submitted a 14-page memorandum, seeking support for the revival of the economy.
The delegation included Hotelier Club president Mushtaq Chaya, JKHARA president Showkat Choudry and Ph.D. Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Kashmir chapter, president Baldev Singh Rana. The meeting was coordinated by Jammu and Kashmir Waqf chairperson Darakhshan Andrabi.
“We had a very good meeting with the prime minister and issues about trade, commerce, and industry were discussed at length,” Ashiq told a news agency.
He said the delegation raised various issues about the revival of local business, economic reforms, and the need for more international direct flights between Srinagar and Sharjah, Dubai and Jeddah besides the early establishment of the already announced model carpet village.
“The prime minister assured the delegation that necessary efforts will be made for the development of business in Kashmir and we are expecting some good announcement soon,” Ashiq said.
In the memorandum, the KCCI called for direct flights from the Srinagar International Airport to Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) to facilitate smooth travel of ‘Umrah and Haj’ pilgrims and uninterrupted service between Srinagar and Sharjah-Dubai at least once a week.
The KCCI said the overall losses incurred over the years have resulted in an unprecedented level of stress on the working capital and finances of local business establishments.
“Though there have been several interventions by the government for extending support, the continuous cycle of disruptions has failed their objectives. For accounts, which are NPA post-2014 and need a revival package, it is suggested that deep restructuring which converts their principal liability into a term loan with a waiver in the unapplied interest similar capital infusion up to 20 percent with a moratorium of two years,” the memorandum read.
It demanded soft loans for five years for the business sector for revival and rehabilitation. “GST penalties for the period of Covid should be waived so that they can work properly and engage more people for work,” the memorandum stated.
The KCCI requested the early setting up of the model carpet village in the valley as a demonstration center of local craft to visiting tourists and also promote the local carpet industry globally.
Highlighting the problems being faced by exporters due to geographical disadvantages in logistics, the memorandum advocated freight subsidies to help increase export and make local products competitive in the international market.
It also called for attractive schemes for the youth inclined towards the export industry, exemption of taxes on all handmade items like pashmina shawls, carpets, papier mache, crewel, chain stitch, and wood carving.
The KCCI asked the government to give all the benefits to Kashmir handicrafts and declare it as a Special Economic Zone.
“Due to slow down in the global market since 2014 the Jammu and Kashmir government should take up this matter vigorously with the Reserve Bank of India so that our exporters and manufacturers are relieved as their exports collection is very slow. They should be allowed to get back their goods so that a lot of complaints are taken care of,” it said.
The KCCI said the handicraft sector of Kashmir could receive a huge boost if the central government would reserve a minor percentage of central government purchases as well as urge states to purchase Kashmiri handicrafts products including shawls and silk handmade carpets.
This would also greatly support the liquidation of a huge pile-up of inventory in this sector for which the KCCI has also pushed for special funding to the tune of Rs 500 crores.
It also demanded a three-year full GST waiver for travel and tour operators, interest-free or soft loans for survival, and revival of the tourism industry.
Highlighting the issues of the hotel industry, the KCCI demanded a three-year GST waiver and extension of land lease at the famous hill resorts of Pahalgam and Gulmarg to the owners who have suffered huge losses due to “unavoidable circumstances”.
It also called for a special package for tourist taxi operators, houseboat owners, and industries.
“The lack of budgetary assistance and abolition of toll tax without formulation of any substituting protective mechanism has severely impacted the local industries…measures like providing of working capital at concessional interest rates and waiver of interest for the period of lockdown are urgently required to provide sustenance to the local industries,” the KCCI said.
The memorandum also highlighted the need for adopting the Himachal Pradesh model for the welfare of the farming community and a relook of the MSME scheme, claiming that it was not being followed by the financial institutions.