SRINAGAR: A group of seven former legislators of erstwhile of Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday submitted a memorandum with Lt Governor GC Murmu listing demands including restoration of statehood, protection of special rights of citizens and initiatives for development of region.
PDP minister Syed Altaf Bukhari, Ghulam Hassan Mir (President Democratic Party Nationalist) Mohammad Dilawar Mir, Zaffar Iqbal, Javed Hassan Beig, Noor Mohammad Shiekh, Choudhary Qamar Hussain and Raja Manzoor Ahmad met Murmu at Jammu on Tuesday.
“We demand restoration of Statehood including establishment of a Legislative Council and in providing thereto reservation of seats for socially and economically backward classes, Art Culture, Languages, Literature and Sports,” said the memorandum.
Besides, the group demanded protection of land rights and jobs for locals.
“The abrogation of Article 370 and in particular annulling Article 35A on account of being ‘discriminatory against non-permanent residents and women of Jammu and Kashmir and it being an obstacle in the development of the state has outstanding issues,” it said.
“This most important issue can be addressed by tangible legal and constitutional safeguards that can be put in place by virtue of which protection of Domicile Rights including that of reservation for the permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir in the matter of employment and that of admissions to professional courses is ensured.
“A blend of models like Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and parts of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh can provide solution for protection of these rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” it added.
According to the memorandum, the leaders have also asked for the release of detainees, withdrawal of cases against youth, restoration of J&K bank’s status, and revival of developmental activities.
“One of the psychological setbacks to a number of people in Kashmir is that their near and dear ones were detained around the August 5. These people were not arrested for committing any violation of law, but were preventive detentions vis-à-vis law and order situation,” it said.
“Now that the life has almost returned to normal and all apprehensions regarding law and order subsided, it is a genuine demand that these detainees should be immediately shifted from the jails across the country to Jammu and Kashmir and subsequently released on priority basis,” it added.
“There are scores of youth, (mostly teenagers) who were detained under different FIRs by police during law and order situation in the summer of 2016. Then juveniles, these youth are now adults who are living life of ordinary citizens. However, they are still caught into legal cases which become a huge de-motivating factor for them and doesn’t help them assimilate into the society as responsible citizens,” it added.
The politicians have asked for withdrawal of cases against such youth on compassionate grounds and support them integrate into the society.
About the status of J&K Bank, they asked that an atmosphere of uncertainty has gripped its customer base and the share markets which were not good for the economic health of Jammu and Kashmir.
Support for Industry and Manufacturing Sector
The industrial and manufacturing sector is critical to the development of Jammu & Kashmir and an impetus on the same will lead to long term economic growth and increased private sector employment. Along with the planned Investors Summit in 2020, tangible policy measures must support the existing industries as well as development of new units.
Some immediate measure that can be looked into: Capital subsidy for new projects/expansion to be increased from the current level of Rs. 5 crore to encourage large scale industrial development. Soft loans for industry must be encouraged to support investment in industry by local entrepreneurs. Promotion of region wise industrial clusters or industrial estates dedicated to priority sectors like IT and IT related services, agriculture, food processing can help in balanced development of different regions of Jammu and Kashmir.
The refund of CGST and SGST to existing units, as well as transport subsidy as per existing policy must be expedited to support the entrepreneurs.
Tourism and Allied Industries and their Revival
The revival of tourism and allied industries including hotels, handicrafts, tour operators, houseboat owners, shikara wallahs is critical to the revival of the economy of Jammu & Kashmir. Post lifting of the travel advisory in October 2019; concrete measures must be taken immediately to support the industry.
In this regard, interest subvention need to be looked into from August 2019 up to March 2022 to support the industry. Deferment of banking installments due between August 2019 and March 2020 is also suggested. Moratorium for existing term loans for 2 years and extension of repayment period by 10 years, on case by case basis should be allowed. Soft loans for new tourism projects must also be considered for boosting investment.
In order to promote new investment, a dedicated tourism policy needs to be put in place along with the creation of tourism clusters/villages in different regions of Jammu & Kashmir. Eco-tourism needs to be promoted along with focus on homestays to promote cultural tourism.
The operations of the Jammu & Srinagar airports should be opened for international flights from the Middle East and South East Asia, along with the regular operationalization of evening/night operations for domestic flights. This will provide a much needed boost to in-bound tourism along with opening of employment opportunities for locals.
The grant/extension of “industry status” along with all the benefits of the Industrial Policy to tourism and allied industry will also be a major push to the overall development of this critical sector.
Relief for General Trade including Shopkeepers, Bus Owners, Taxi Owners
The issuance of the travel advisory affected the general trade which includes shopkeepers, retailers, bus and taxi owners – it is suggested to provide relief to the general trade in the form of soft loans, interest subvention and deferment of banking installments similar to the Tourism and Allied Industry to support their livelihoods until the overall economy picks and developmental activities resume.
Restoration of Internet
The restoration of internet connectivity in all regions of the Union Territory needs to be looked into as a major confidence building measure and an outreach to the public. This is also very important for the industrial economy, education, medical services, media, as well as revival of the tourism sector in the Union Territory,
National Highway and Regional Connectivity within J&K/Cap on airfares
The National Highway connecting Jammu to Srinagar is in urgent need of works to be expedited and traffic management be streamlined. The routine closure of this National Highway due to rain/snow causes extreme hardships to commuters besides being major deterrent to the economy of the Union Territory. Due to the frequent highway closure and massive traffic snarls, medical emergencies also can not be fully responded to in a time bound manner along the route of this highway especially between Udhampur and Banihal.
As the only all-weather road link currently between Jammu and Srinagar, it is imperative for a well-managed administrative plan to be put in place to deal with all eventualities on this highway so as to ensure continuous movement of vehicles and commuters.
Similarly the Mughal Road needs to be developed as an alternate all weather highway to support the current National Highway. In this regard works on the Mughal Road Tunnel need to be expedited for overall development and economy of the union territory along with improvement in intra region connectivity within the Union Territory.
The road connectivity also needs to be improved to Karnah with the development of the proposed Sadhna Top Tunnel to ensure throughout year road access to this region. On the similar pattern work on Perkhiyon Gali Tunnel needs to be approved and started in order to provide all weather access to the commuters from Kupwara to Keran. This tunnel will reduce the distance of 60 kilometers between Kupwara-Keran to just 3.5 kilometers thus reducing time from 4 hours to a few minutes.
Works also needs to be taken up to ensure round the year connectivity on Bandipora Gurez Highway for which a tunnel has been porposed as well. All weather access on the Kishtwar-Anantnag road through Sinthan Pass tunnel also needs to be started.
The improvement in the overall road infrastructure within the Union Territory is critical to the equitable development of all regions and can act a major catalyst in the socio-economic transformation of the various regions of the Union Territory.
Since the National Highway remains mostly closed due to its dilapidated condition, the airfares touch skies during especially during the winter months. The authorities must help people of Jammu and Kashmir by putting a cap on the rising airfares between Jammu and Srinagar and vice versa and provide some subsidy to the passengers flying on this route.
Augmentation of Power and Development of New Power Projects on PPP Model
The power infrastructure including transmission and distribution need to be augmented to provide regular electricity to the people across the Union Territory. Regular power cuts, especially in the winter makes harsh living conditions for the people and it is suggested that additional resources be tapped immediately from the Central Grid to provide relief to the people.
The hydroelectric and solar potential of the Union Territory needs to be tapped with the development of power projects on PPP/BOOT/IPP model. This is a major development initiative that will lead to long term value creation as well as employment generation in Jammu & Kashmir.
Revival of Developmental Activities
Most of the developmental activities have come to halt since August 5, 2019 and the same need to be restarted immediately across all regions of the Union Territory. These works are crucial in the creation of public infrastructure and services to the people and need to be expedited.