The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries is an apex body of business houses in the Valley. In an interview with Special Correspondent Moazum Mohammad, its president Sheikh Ashiq says the government of India has not delivered, but “our representatives failed us too.”
What’s your take on government’s rehabilitation process?
Nothing is happening. I met Finance minister Ashok Jaitley twice. He assured that short- and long-term rehabilitation packages would be announced in a phased manner. We are yet to see the beginning of any of these phases.
Who’s responsible for delaying the package?
The government of India is directly responsible for unnecessary delay. Unfortunately, our representatives too failed to persuade Delhi to release financial assistance. Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed conveyed to us that he was pursuing the case.
What’s chamber’s assessment of losses?
It was around Rs 100,000 crore. Businesses were not only crippled in the immediate aftermath of the flood but hit in the long term as well. No sector is doing well. Handicrafts sector alone suffered a loss of about Rs 500 crore.
We discussed the extent of the losses with parliamentary delegations, central ministers, but they have not done anything. It baffles us what is stopping the government of India from announcing the financial package. Where’s Prime Minister’s humanitarianism. They are more concerned about their vote bank than this affected region.
Are you satisfied with Rs 44000-crore package submitted by previous government?
Not entirely, but even this reduced amount has not been considered. Our case was strong, but our lawyer is weak.
What are your demands?
The government shouldn’t waste time anymore. They should announce the package immediately.
Are businesses recovering?
We are in a revival mode, getting loans from banks and other financial institutions. Except JK Bank, we have reported to RBI that no bank has come forward to help in the rehabilitation. We apprehend there would be a lot of Non Performing Assets because the rate of interest levied by banks is higher or at par with metropolitan cities.
What was the role of Chamber after the floods?
People were confused after the floods as there was no system in place. Insurance companies were seeking documents and tactically they were avoiding the victims. It worried all. We filed the PIL and the court directed insurance companies to give compensation to the affected people. When judiciary could be so active and concerned about this humanitarian issue, I wonder what the role of the political system is.
Did you take up issues of flood preparedness plan with government?
We had talks with the government on flood preparedness. We are submitting a paper to the government prepared by experts. It will focus on the flood management plan. The drainage system is archaic and it all needs a big financial package. Our ministers publicly have shown helplessness because of lack of financial assistance from the government of India.