Contractors protest again as cash-starved JK withholds ‘Rs 900 cr’

Contractors protest again as cash-starved JK withholds ‘Rs 900 cr’

IRFAN MEHRAJ

SRINAGAR: The contractors working for the state Thursday protested against the government’s delay in release of their “Rs 900 crore” even as the police detained several of them.
Under the banner of Jammu and Kashmir Central Contractors Coordination Committee (JKCCCC), dozens of the contractors from across the Valley assembled at Lal Chowk here to stage the protest.
Shouting anti-government slogans, they were demanding early release of the amount, which the state government owes them for their works completed so far this fiscal.
“Government owes the contractors a sum of Rs 900 crore, but it is not clearing our bills, citing paucity of funds,” Nazir Ahmad Zargar, a contractor associated with JKCCCC told Kashmir Reader.
Zargar said the contractors from Jammu have already been paid for their works while only “the Kashmir-based contractors have been left to suffer”.
“The Jammu contractors received their payment in two quarters while we (contractors in Kashmir) have not been paid since last March,” he said.
Another protestor, Mohammad Ismail Shah, said the bills have been pending before the state’s major departments including the Roads and Buildings, Irrigation and Flood Control, Public Health Engineering, and Power Development department.
“All these departments are citing paucity of funds,” he said, asking, “Why is this financial crisis only impacting us?”
Shah said the Irrigation and Flood Control department had given him and several other contractors the urgent work of “rebuilding breaches on Jhelum embankments, spots and lining walls.”
“We worked on the emergency basis, but now our bills are not being cleared. Therefore, we have boycotted all the tenders of the department,” Shah said.
According to General Secretary of JKCCCC, Farooq Dar, the contractors have suffered “a loss of Rs 150 crore” during the floods, but the government didn’t “provide us any compensation.”
“Government shall have cleared the bills of first two quarters and also compensated the infrastructure losses suffered by the contractors. But it seems the government is deliberately ignoring Kashmir and letting its people suffer,” said Dar.
The contractors threatened to launch a hunger strike if their bills were not cleared forthwith.
The protest continued until police arrived at the scene and detained several of the protesters. Many office bearers of JKCCCC including its General Secretary were also detained.