Jammu, Feb 04: Lobby groups of traders and industrialists in Jammu and Kashmir have locked horns over the demand for removal of toll tax at Lakhanpur which generates a revenue of over Rs 1,000 crore annually.
While the Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) has threatened to start an agitation if the governor administration failed to implement ‘one nation one tax’ by abolishing the toll plaza, Federation of Industries Jammu (FOIJ) and Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK) said such a decision would be a death knell for the local industry.
“The people of Jammu and Kashmir are not ready to pay a whopping amount of toll tax after the implementation of Goods and Service Tax (GST) regime in the country,” JCCI president Rakesh Gupta said.
He said that the chamber had decided to launch a protest during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the state on Sunday but deferred the move conditionally after getting an assurance fromGovernor Satya Pal Malik that their issues would be taken on priority.
The chamber is pressing for implementation of ‘one nation one tax’ by removing toll tax and allotment of land for a dry port for which an MoU was signed in February last year. A meeting of the chamber and the state administration is likely to take place this week, he said and warned the administration that if these two utmost important issues are not resolved in the proposed meeting, the Chamber would have no choice but to take the agitation route to press for its demand.
Strongly opposing the idea of withdrawal of toll tax at Lakhanpur, the gateway to Jammu and Kashmir from Punjab, the FOIJ and the FCIK expressed concern over the “repeated attempts of some vested interests” to destroy the Industrial sector in the state and requested the governor to continue with the arrangement to safeguard the state industry.
“The Toll at Lakhanpur prevents import and export of unaccounted goods, contraband and other banned items and it should be continued to safeguard the industrial sector in the state,” FOIJ Chairman Lalit Mahajan said after a joint meeting with FCIK delegation here. If the government withdraws the toll tax checkpost, the whole state will be flooded with the unaccounted goods and other related material which will prove as a death knell for the Industrial sector of the state,” he claimed.
Earlier, Excise Commissioner Talat Parvez Rohella told PTI that the continuation of toll tax at Lakhanpur is imperative to safeguard the local industry and also to generate revenue to provide better facilities.
“Our state is consumer state and as long as the two reasons remain there, we have to continue with this practice,” he said.
The commissioner said under Section V of the state constitution, the government has the powers to impose levy on goods other than the GST. The Constitution of India also empowers the states to levy any tax, other than GST, under Schedule VII.
“We do not have resources as we do not implement property tax, wealth tax, municipal tax and even our electricity cost is less compared to other states. The Lakhanpur toll plaza supports our budget as Rs 1,000 crore is generated annually which help the government to provide facilities to the people,” he said.
Secondly, Rohella said the industries which operate here do not get raw material locally and they have to import it from outside the state.
“When they produce finished goods here they need protection as our industry cannot compete with neighbouring states like Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh where the raw material is easily available and the industrialists enjoy concession on electricity,” he added.
The department is also keeping a close watch in the areas bordering Punjab to stop illegal smuggling of various goods, including cement from the neighbouring state.
“We have apprehended some people who were trying to smuggle cement through riverbed routes into the state. We are keeping a vigil round-the-clock to ensure that the smugglers do not succeed,” he said.
He said cement manufacturers in other states have added advantage compared to Jammu and Kashmir.
“We have to bring everything, from costly machinery to raw material, from outside and our cement industry cannot compete with neighbouring states, which get the raw material locally and can lower the rates at will. The toll plaza works as an advantage for the local industry,” he said. However, he said the department is planning to introduce online payment system and cashless transactions to ensure hassle-free clearance of goods at Lakhanpur toll plaza.
“We are providing handheld POS machines to the staff at the plaza to ensure payment through credit and debit cards as well,” Rohella noted.
In times of hatred, Sikh brethren’s efforts spread positive vibes
Srinagar, Feb 20: With Kashmiris facing the heat following the suicide attack in Pulwama, Sikh groups have come to the rescue of Valleyites putting up in various parts of India.
In the aftermath of Lethpora incident in which 49 CRPF troopers were killed last week, there has been a spate of attacks against Kashmiris in Jammu and other parts of India.
Facing threats and harassment, Kashmiris have been forced to leave their education and businesses midway and make efforts to return home.
In these times of worry, Khalsa Aid International, an NGO, has reached out to the distressed students and offered them all possible help.
At least 30 Sikh youth associated with the NGO, have been helping Kashmiris in various parts.
“We evacuated scores of Kashmiris from Dehradun to Mohali and then to Jammu in the past three days. We transported first batch of 100 students and another of 150 from Dehradun to Jammu with proper security. At least 70 more students are on the way to Jammu,” Jeevanjyot Singh, who is associated with Khalsa International told The Kashmir Monitor.
“Eight Kashmiri girls were also sent to Srinagar by air after rescued from Dehradun,” he said.
Jeevanjyot said that Kashmiri students were feeling safe in Punjab.
“They are also provided accommodation at a Gurduwara in 3D1 sector Mohali arranged by the Gurudwara committee,” he said.
The group has provided several helpline numbers for Ambala, Chandigarh and Dehradun.
The role of Sikh youth has been well appreciated on social media in Kashmir and elsewhere.
“The Sikh sangat has gone above & beyond the call of duty in reaching out & helping Kashmiris in distress, whether in Jammu or outside the state,” former J&K CM, Omar Abdullah tweeted on Wednesday.
Mehbooba Makhdoomi, a prominent columnist and researcher, wrote: Kashmir pays gratitude to Sikh community in general & @Khalsa_Aid International in specific for coming to our rescue, at a time when it mattered. “He who does not thank people, does not thank Allah”. Will protect you with our blood, if, God Forbid, the need arises.”
Shinjini, a Twitter user wrote: “These @khalsa guys restore my faith in humanity. At a time when most of the country is going cuckoo, these guys are quietly doing what’s necessary.”
Kabir, a former JNU student, tweeted: “Salutes to @khalsa-Aid, when the streets across India are resonating with hate and malice, the gallant Sikhs came to the rescue of Kashmiris.”
A group of Sikhs from Tral Pulwama have also started free Langer and accommodation for Kashmiris near Jammu bus stand.
“We also have a group of volunteers from Jammu and have been providing all possible help to Kashmiris and many were rescued from mobs,” a Sikh volunteer from Tral told The Kashmir Monitor.
Similarly, the Sikh groups have arranged accommodation at various places in Chandigarh and Jammu for Kashmiris.
One of the students, who returned from Dehradun, said, “Our college authorities told us to leave saying when things get normal they will call us back. There was no safety for us and the crowd outside the campus threatened to beat us up.”
“The state government should make concrete efforts to ensure the safety of Kashmiris, he said adding: “Sikhs really played an important role in rescuing Kashmiri youth from the goons”.
Two Kashmiri shawl vendors attacked on train
New Delhi, Feb 20: Two Kashmiri shawl vendors have claimed they were beaten up and called “stone pelters” by unidentified men on a train, forcing them to cut short their business trip to Rohtak, officials said Wednesday.
The incident comes amid reports of attacks on Kashmiri people in many parts of the country in the aftermath of the February 14 attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama that left 49 personnel dead.
“Three Kashmiri shawl vendors boarded the general compartment of a local train from Sarai Rohilla station at around 10.40 am for a business trip to Sampla in Haryana. They claimed they were pushed into a corner and called ‘stone pelters’,” said Dinesh Gupta, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Railways).
“When they objected, the accused allegedly abused and slapped two Kashmiri vendors. The attackers said ‘you hurl stones there (in Kashmir) and come to earning a livelihood here’. Other passengers also joined in and created a ruckus,” the DCP (Railways) said.
Thereafter, the three Kashmiri men de-boarded at Nangloi station, leaving their bags containing shawls and suits worth around Rs 2 lakh in the train, Gupta added.
A case has been registered and the matter is being probed, he said.
The three men said they came to Delhi in December last year and were staying in Sarai Rohilla. They have been coming here for business purposes for the last 10 years.
The three Kashmiri men approached Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Brinda Karat through their local MLA. Karat helped them file a complaint with police.
“The men claimed the attackers told them they were from the armed forces. They said ‘you are the ones who killed our men’.
“Around 15-20 other men also joined in and beat the Kashmiri men with belts. The incident took place when they were crossing Mangolpuri. One of the three Kashmiris suffered severe head injuries and another sustained wounds on face,” she said.
Police said the attackers were yet to be identified, and it was not clear if they were from the armed forces since they were in plain clothes.
Non-locals protest against attacks on Kashmiris
Srinagar, Feb 20: Dozens of non-locals workers and businessmen putting up in Kashmir Wednesday carried out a peaceful protest against the harassment and attacks meted out to Kashmiris in different parts of India.
A large number of non-locals assembled at Hari Singh High Street here and raised slogans against miscreants attacking the students and businessmen of the valley operating in other states in wake of the Lethpora bombing last week.
They demanded the safety of Kashmiri traders and students outside the valley.
A Kolkata resident, Sushant Shanti, who is running a shop at Hari Singh High Street, told The Kashmir Monitor that they have been living in Kashmir for 25 years and have never faced any threat.
“I strongly condemn the atrocities that our Kashmiri youth and traders are facing outside Kashmir,” said Shanti, adding: “I request my Hindu brothers to ensure the safety of Kashmiris there.”
Another non local shopkeeper at Hari Singh High Street, Rajinder Kumar said: “Our Kashmiri brothers and students who are pursuing education in other states are facing extreme brutality and we strongly condemn this act of cowardice.”
Kumar said that some elements are politicizing the Lethpora incident.
“Whatever happens here, we have always been treated with brotherhood and humanity,” he said.