Deadline over; J&K committee yet to submit report on Toll abolition impact

Imtiyaz Ahmed Shah

Srinagar: In the aftermath of the abolition of the vital Toll Plaza at Lakhanpur and other such posts in J&K on December 31, 2019, the high-powered committee formed by the LG Administration to assess the step’s economic impact has not submitted its report by the 9 February deadline.

It may be recalled that soon after the abolition of the toll system in J&K, several business associations in J&K had voiced concern over the move, and had seen it as a direct challenge to the competitiveness of local industries in J&K.

Informed sources told Ziraat Times that the abolition of the toll system has been estimated to incur a revenue loss of Rs 1500 crore to J&K.

Subsequently, a high powered committee under the chairmanship of Advisor K K Sharma was formed on January 9, 2020 with the primacy mandate to “assess the impact on local industry after abolition of Toll Post Lakhanpur and all other minor interstate Toll Posts and those established at Railway Stations and Airports.” It was also tasked with “interacting with various business stakeholders and suggest measures to improve competitiveness of local industry.”

The committee headed by Advisor K K Sharma and comprising of Financial Commissioner, Finance Department, Commissioner/ Secretary to Government, Industries and Commerce Department and Excise Commissioner J&K was asked to interact with the stakeholders and suggest measures to improve the competitiveness of the local industry.

While announcing the abolition of the decades-old toll system in J&K at a press conference, the LG admin spokesman and Principal Secretary Planning, Development and Monitoring Department Rohit Kansal had stated that the “abolition of toll will give competitive and level playing field to the industrial sector.”

Informed sources told Ziraat Times that apparently the lack of progress in the impact assessment exercise was a lack of will in the administration to objectively assess the impact and suggest remedial measures.

“Objectively speaking, J&K business and industry stand little or no chance to face the competition coming from the goods and services coming into J&K unhindered. So naturally, impact is going to be huge, and, the administration, is required to do something about it”, a prominent businessman of Jammu told Ziraat Times.

Pertinently, the Federation of Industries Jammu (FIJ) has opposed the toll abolition. In a statement issued earlier the FIJ said that “the benefit of this will never go to consumer instead local industries will [be in] ruin.” The Federation had also demanded that the J&K admin should either compensate the local industry periodically or roll back the decision of abolition of Toll Tax.

Likewise, the Bari Brahmana Industries Association (BBIA) has said that the abolition of the toll system “was an attempt to destroy the industrial sector of J&K which was working in spite of all the odds and facing militancy since last 30 years.”

“There is stiff competition from the manufacturers/traders from outside the J&K due to additional cost of transportation of raw materials, locational disadvantages and shallow market”, the BBIA had mentioned in the statement, adding “the decision will also allow the import/export of unaccounted goods in/from J&K which may be resulting huge financial loss to the exchequer as well as to the industrial sector of J&K”.

Kashmir-based business chambers have expressed similar views.

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