Kashmiris are no Nirav Modis; we need empathy: Kashmir Inc to Govt

By: Farooq Sopori and Imtiyaz Ahmed Shah

Srinagar: Voicing serious concern over the deteriorating economic situation across all sectors in Kashmir, 33 joint organizations of industries, business, trade, agri-economy and services today asked the government of India and Jammu & Kashmir to appreciate their situation and come up with an economic revival stimulus for J&K. 

Addressing a media conference at the SKICC, Srinagar on Wednesday, the representatives of Kashmir Inc. emphasized that if the union government announced a Rs 20 lakh crore stimulus package for the country in the face of a 2-month lockdown, asking for a stimulus package for J&K was “neither begging nor unreasonable.”

“Our only agenda is how to address the economic distress. We have a very precarious situation. Our businesses are suffering. We have never come out of the lockdown”, Ashiq Sheikh – KCCI president, said, adding even as they met union Home Minister Amit Shah, Union Finance Minister and the Minister of State at the PMO, Jitendrea Singh, and apprised them about the economic challenges and possible solutions, no concrete follow-up actions have come by.

Reflecting on the larger macro-economic situation of Jammu & Kashmir, Iqbal Tramboo, vice-chairman, Kashmir Economic Alliance, said that while only 5 lakh population of J&K were government employees, making a population of about 25 lakh dependent on public exchequer, the livelihood situation of the rest 1 crore people of the state is precarious.

“Rs 36,000 crore from the state budget is spent on salaries and pensions. J&K’s trade turnover is roughly around Rs 60,000 crore trade, if Rs 4000 crore is assumed to be the income from this trade, its quantum is quite low as compared to the state sending on public salaries”, Mr Iqbal said.

Highlighting the low Non-Performing Assets situation in J&K as compared to rest of India, Mr Iqbal further said that people of J&K pay about Rs 3600 crore interest to various banks for the finance they have borrowed from them. 

“So if we see the quantum of the interest payment to banks against the income from trade, we see that a huge amount actually goes back to the system. In these circumstances, how do we actually survive?”, Mr Iqbal asked. 

“NPAs in J&K are lowest in the country despite all this. The fact of the matter is that Kashmiri entrepreneurs, businessmen are generally honest and pay back money to banks despite so many difficulties. Kashmiris are no Nirav Modi, Vijay Mallyas”, he said.

Other key highlights from the media conference:

  • In a federal system, centre has to take care of financial distress of states. Why J&K is ignored? Why haven’t our state governments been able to represent our case well before the centre?
  • We have lost the financial capacity to continue business post  August 5, 2019. Some businesses want support to survive, some businesses want an honorable exit. People have to be helped in honorable exit from businesses.
  • When entrepreneurs make their DPRs, they factor in 360 or so working days. So when lockdowns happen and working days vanish how can businesses sustain? 
  • How people can re-start? There is no liquidity available.
  • As the unlock 0.1 has been declared, we have got disappointing feedback from the tourism sector, who are expecting no tourist flow in the Valley this year (2020) while are also doubtful about the next year.
  • Education is suffering too. Our children are suffering due to lack of 4G. 2G does not work.National highway is very disturbed. How can our businesses prosper?
  • We have approached the State governments in past, they heard us; many packages were given in the past. Will not deny that but when Rs 8000 Crore were announced for Jammu and Kashmir after floods, a meagre amount was given to the business community here.Even the most advanced countries are asking for and announcing for financial bailout packages. That is nothing unusual. What such thing cannot be considered for J&K despite business losses of 30 years?
  • It is high time for the central and J&K governments to take note of this situation. We are not begging. We don’t go and ask for relief. We ask for empathy and understanding for this situation of Kashmir’s business and economy.
  • Both J&K and central governments need to appreciate the situation. And provide some package for the industry.
  • A big hue and cry happened in whole of India when Covid-19 lockdown happened. It was good that a Rs 20 lakh core package was announced. And people started realizing that J&K also needs similar approach. 
  • Kashmir has witnessed 3000 days of lockdown in last three decades.
  • Our problem is 3 decades old. Our businesses suffer every now and then due to the political turmoil. Tourist players are disappointed. 2020 tourism not possible. In 2021 people are looking forward to it. But there is no cash flow available. 
  • Horticulture, agri activities need support. We want cherry should reach markets.
  • In handicrafts sector, 50-60% exports declined last year. Christmas and New Year market demand could not be catered to due to lockdown and Internet shutdown post August 5, 2019. 
  • Transport sector is suffering very badly since 5 August, 2019.

The organizations that attended the media briefing include:

  1. The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCC&I).
  2. Kashmir Traders & Manufacturing Federation (KTMF).
  3. Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA).
  4. Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK)
  5. PHD Chamber of Commerce (Kashmir Chapter).
  6. Kashmir Hotel & Restaurant  Owners Federation (KHAROF)
  7. Jammu & Kashmir Hotelier Club (JKHC).
  8. Jammu & Kashmir Association of Hajj & Umrah Companies (JKAHUC).
  9. Kashmir Industrial Revival and Development Forum.(KIR&DF).
  10. Kashmir Joint Co-ordination Committee of Chemists & Druggists.
  11. All Kashmir Transport Welfare Association.
  12. Jammu & Kashmir Fruit & Vegetable Processing and Integrated Cold Chain Association (JKPICCA).
  13. Kashmir House Boat Owners Association (HBOA).
  14. Beopar Mandal (Maharaj Gunj)
  15. J&K Private School Coordination Committee.
  16. Shopian Fruit Mandi Association.
  17. Artisans Rehabilitation Forum.
  18. Kashmir Economic Form.
  19. Shehri-Khass Traders Coordination Committee.
  20. Jammu & Kashmir Hotels & Restaurant Association (JKHARA).
  21. Tourist Taxi Stand Federation.
  22. Travel Agents Society of Kashmir (TASK).
  23. Jammu & Kashmir Tourism Alliance (JKTA)
  24. Pilgrim and Leisure Tour Operators Forum(PILTOF).
  25. Tourist Trade Interest Guild.(TTIG)
  26. Urban Travel Agents Association.(UTAA)
  27. Kashmir Association of Retailers(KAR)
  28. Restaurant and Café Association of Kashmir (RAK)
  29. Association of Kashmir Tour Operators (AKTO).
  30. Kashmir Carpet Association.
  31. Kashmir Youth Entrepreneurs Federation (KYEF).
  32. Kashmir Artists Welfare Foundation (KAWF)

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