KCCI urges govt to handover PSUs to local stakeholders

KCCI urges govt to handover PSUs  to local stakeholders

Srinagar Jul 17: The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Friday expressed concern about proposed closure and privatization of Public Sector Undertakings and Government owned Corporations saying the privatization of PSUs was a long pending demand of the Chamber even before the constitutional changes to Jammu and Kashmir in August last year.
A statement issued by the KCCI in this regard said that the Chambers demand to privatize the PSUs was based on the “wanton waste of assets, nepotism, mismanagement which had resulted in the raking up of liabilities of around 15,000 Crores and locked up critical economic assets of Kashmir in the shape of infrastructure, land, manpower and sectoral potential of key areas”.
While the KCCI would have welcomed the step towards privatization of PSUs, but post the constitutional changes made to Jammu and Kashmir in August, 2019, it has instead become a cause of concern, the KCCI said in the statement.
It said that after the constitutional changes of August 2019 the Government of Jammu and Kashmir has made changes to the mining policy “which opened up the sector for non-locals”.
Earlier the rights were exclusively reserved for the local stakeholders only.
The KCCI said that the subsequent auction of mineral blocks in Kashmir “showed an alarming take-over of the business by a non-local syndicate while local contractors and other persons associated with the business since decades stand deprived of their only source of income.
It said the prices of construction material like sand has also shown a sharp spike, “in many cases consumers have complained of almost a hundred percent price hike”.
The KCCI said the change in policy is “against public interest as well as the interests of the local stakeholders”.
“Now that policy decisions aimed at exposing of key economic assets of Kashmir to open bidding and auction are being put into action, it would be pertinent to raise questions regarding the protection and claim of the natives of Kashmir in this regard, the Chamber said.
It said the Government of Jammu and Kashmir in whatever constitutional form it may acquire-cannot ignore the views, feelings and sentiments of the people of Jammu and Kashmir”.
The KCCI said that while there had been a commitment of true empowerment of the people, but ill-advised policies could ultimately result in disempowerment of the people”.
Regarding the proposed change in the fate of the PSUs, the KCCI said it had been time and again inviting the governments attention to the pathetic condition of the PSUs and the “colossal drain the undertakings and corporations were causing to the economy of J&K”.
“In many undertakings, mandatory annual audits were not carried out for decades, it said.
The Chamber also referred to the joint press conference of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Jammu Chamber of Commerce in Srinagar in 2017 wherein they had pointed out losses above Rs 10,000 Crores to the J&K economy caused by the lack of accountability in the Public Sector Undertakings.
The KCCI said that decades of neglect and unproductive policies only transformed the condition of the PSUs from bad to worse”.
It alleged that instead of taking tangible and concrete steps towards stopping the drainage of capital, “the PSUs and Corporations became rehabilitation centres for out of work politicians and employment exchanges for party workers who were adjusted as Vice Chairmen of PSUs”.
“As many as 16 appointments were made with a reported consolidated pay of around Rs 1.5 lakhs per head, official bungalows, chauffer driven vehicles, personal staff and other perks and benefits, the KCCI said adding the PSUs became “breeding grounds for politically motivated engagement of employees, nepotism and corruption”.
While sharing the blame of allowing it to happen, the Chamber said the press statements of political parties “have only focused on job losses and chosen to ignore the most discriminatory factor of the new policies which would result in the complete marginalization of the local stakeholders”.
It suggested that instead of shedding crocodile tears and press releases we would humbly suggest all parties to come out of the trauma the move has reportedly put them in and take concrete steps to ensure that the assets are not lost forever”.
The KCCI demanded that there be a “complete reservation for natives of Kashmir only in managing the PSUs urging the leadership to devise strategy for achieving that.
With the constitutional changes made to Jammu and Kashmir in August, 2019 having been challenged by several petitioners in the Supreme Court of India, the KCCI said it would be prudent “not to rush through policies which could adversely impact the economic interests of any party when a final decision is taken in the case”.
It said that in case the Supreme Court of India “concurs with the views of a majority of the petitioners, any non-local investor would suffer irreparable losses and damages which could be avoided by exercising restraint and focusing on the potential of local stakeholders who best know the frequently changing conditions of Kashmir as well as the back of their hand”.
The KCCI asked the government to provide local stakeholders a conducive and stable environment for business and make enabling policies, the results could spring a surprise for the most cynical of observers. The Chamber said that the estimated losses to the local businesses were in the vicinity of Rs 18,000 Crores and 5 lakh job losses for a period of only four months from August to December, 2019 adding the Rs 20 lakh crore package announced by the Government of India has proved to be only a drop in the ocean for Kashmirs beleaguered business community.
While most of the interventions in the package were aimed at revival of businesses under stress from March 2020 onwards, for stakeholders in Kashmir having now entered the 12th month of lockdown, it was instead a question of survival and not of revival or growth the KCCI said.
In such a situation, any policy having the effect of hurting the interests of native stakeholders would not only be a failure of the Government of J&K to watch over and protect the interests of its citizens but would also be a grave injustice with the people, it added.

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