KCCI members discuss trade related issues with Advisor Baseer Khan

SRINAGAR: A delegation of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry led by Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad, President met Baseer Ahmad Khan, Advisor to LG J&K. The delegation comprised of members representing various economic sectors including hotels and restaurants, handicrafts, tourism and travel, general trade and FMCG, food processing, horticulture and representatives of the Chemists and Druggists Association and Rangreth Industrial Estate.
Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad conveyed the concern of the business community at the prevailing economic conditions of Kashmir not being duly addressed in the recent Economic Stimulus Package announced by the Minister of Finance. Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad said that all prominent business organisations had met Amit Shah Hon’ble Minister of Home, Nirmala Sitharaman Hon’ble Minister of Finance and Dr Jitendra Singh, Hon’ble Minister of State, PMO in New Delhi on the the 17th of March, 2020 and extensively explained the economic losses and jobs deprivation suffered during the post-August 2019 period till mid-March.
However, the package appears to be no specific intervention for Kashmir and had so far only focused on the COVID related losses. Baseer Ahmad Khan stated that the Government was fully aware of the situation and all economic concerns of the people, including the most vulnerable sections of the society, would be appropriately addressed. Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad thanked the Advisor and requested that the interests of the vulnerable sector especially artisans, weavers and self-help groups of handicrafts sectors be accorded priority.
Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad highlighted the accessibility problems arising out of the prolonged Durbar Move. He stated that the extension had drastically reduced the time window for functioning of offices at Kashmir. Baseer Khan stated that the decision had been taken in the interest of public safety keeping in view the dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic and would be reviewed as soon as the situation allowed.
Representatives of the General Trade/FMCG sector urged for the complete opening up of the grocery stores as was being done throughout the country. However Kashmir administration had so far refused to allow grocery stores to operate and instead designated a handful of stores for home deliveries only. The problems including stockpiling of dead/expired stocks, rapid depletion of capital and business losses would seriously impede their revival. Baseer A Khan assured the delegation that a decision would be taken immediately in this regard.
The members also underlined the sealing off of the main central business district at Residency Road. The Hon’ble Advisor was informed that the area housed more than seven main branches of leading banks. The sealing off of the area by concertina wires prevented customers from visiting the branches. The customers who somehow manage to reach the branches are further troubled by tyres of their vehicles being deflated by the local police. The members strongly objected to such sadistic measures being adopted by the authorities which defeated the basic objectives of permissible activities besides being violative of the law and an abuse of authority. The inconvenience faced by the public due to such steps needed to be taken cognizance of.
The representatives of the Pharma sector complained about the difficulties in movement of persons connected with the trade. While thanking the administration for the positive interventions for their sector, they faced problems in supplies to other districts due to authorities not honouring the valid movement passes. Baseer A Khan stated that the concerns would be conveyed to the IGP, Kashmir for necessary action.
Representatives of the Hotel and Restaurant sector sought the Hon’ble Advisor’s intervention for finalisation of the rates of Hotels hired for COVID operations. They stated that the hotels were functioning in very difficult conditions and with the sector being under prolonged stress, the fixation of rentals and release of payments may be considered as an stimulus for the sector. The problems of the restaurants and café segment were also discussed. The representatives urged for allowing limited operations for home deliveries and takeaways. The representatives also pressed for waiver of Power Demand and Water Charges. Baseer A Khan assured of a positive response after the Eid.
Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad while drawing attention towards the continuous losses suffered by the contractors of various parking lots in Srinagar, urged for automatic renewal of their contracts without any additional charges.
Representative of the Horticulture sector highlighted the heavy losses being suffered by the apple farmers who were being forced to indulge in distress sales of their stocks at throwaway rates. Earlier in September, 2019 the Union Government had earmarked an amount of Rs 8,000/- Crores for direct purchase of approximately 13 lakh MTs of apple. However, due to various reasons only 7,940 MTs had been procured till November, 2019. The representatives sought the intervention of the Government for direct purchase of the remaining produce of around 15 to 20,000 MTs stored by growers in various CA stores in the Valley to check the distress sales. The representatives also sought the extension of the scheme to other crops like Cherry and Strawberries. The representatives also urged for the waiver of the SICOP/SIDCO rentals charges for the period in which operations stood disrupted.
The representatives from the Rangreth Industrial Estate urged for re-opening of the Estate since as per reports the tests conducted had been negative.
Members also raised the issue of forcible quarantining at Nagrota of persons carrying valid Movement Passes traveling from Srinagar to Jammu. It was urged that persons carrying valid passes should be informed about getting COVID Negative Medical Certificates before traveling.
Expressing concern at the recent spike of COVID positive cases in Kashmir, the members urged for comprehensive screening of persons traveling to Kashmir at Banihal.
Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad raised the issue of reports about Multi National Companies and Private Banking Institutions pressuring employees for achieving targets which are impossible in the present situation. Members also raised the issue of non-commissioning of the Malshai Bagh Water Scheme which was causing inconvenience to lakhs of residents of Srinagar City.
Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad urged the Advisor to intervene for release of the detained citizens of Kashmir especially the youth and Mian Abdul Qayoom, President of the Kashmir High Court Bar Association who had been incarcerated since more than nine months.
Baseer Ahmad Khan thanked the members of the delegation for highlighting issues of public interest and stated that the KCC&I had played a responsible role in the present situation. He asked the members to convey to the business community the need to be vigilant and alert in the fight against COVID-19. He stated that the public had been cooperative and patient in the situation which had helped in controlling of the pandemic so far but there was no scope of lowering the guard. Underlining the importance of social distancing, he informed the members that in the interest of public safety there would be no religious gatherings on the upcoming Shab-e-Qadr, Jumat-ul-Vida and Eid.
Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad thanked the Advisor for the detailed interaction and patient deliberations on the issues raised on behalf of the business community.

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