Srinagar, Oct 13: Jammu and Kashmir’s business chambers on Tuesday asked the central government to return power projects of the state run by National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) “illegally” and declare the state as a free economic zone.
“Government of India should return all the power projects run by NHPC illegally, so as to boost the state’s economy,” said Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) president Mushtaq Ahmad Wani at a joint press conference here with his Jammu province’s counterpart.
Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) president Rakesh Gupta said the central government should immediately return the power projects whose contract period has expired.
“Why should we always be with a begging bowl before the Union government? This dependency must end,” he said.
The two apex business organizations said they are on the same page over the issue.
The state government has been demanding transfer of 390 MW Dul Hasti and 690 MW Uri-I from NHPC to the state to improve its electricity scenario.
The business bodies also said the central government should take steps to declare the whole state a free economic zone.
“Our historical trade routes like silk route should be opened so that we can trade with Central Asia, China, Russia, Iran etc,” said Gupta.
He said if both India and Pakistan claim to be their well-wishers, they shouldn’t have any problem with this demand, and they should see if it can be practically done on the ground.
On cross Line of Control (LoC) trade between the two divided parts of the state, Wani said it should not be restricted.
“Presently we trade 21 items through cross Line of Control (LoC) trade. We demand that there should be no positive restricted list but a negative list should come and rest of the items should be allowed,” he added.
The two business organizations also held that the cross LoC trade is a “blind trade” with no required trading facilities.
“If this trade will continue as it is, it will only benefit few people on either side. Rest – the real investor and businessmen will lose,” said Gupta, adding the travel between the two divided parts of Kashmir should be hassle-free which will “heal the wounds of 1947 partition”.
He also said tourism is the backbone of the state’s economy and “special benefits” should be given to people associated with this industry.
Both chambers also asked the government not “harass honest tax payers” of the business community.
“We will never support tax evaders. But if honest tax payers are threatened or pestered we will not shy away from creating finical indiscipline and stop paying taxes. We know then how to reply,” Gupta warned.
Blaming communication gap between the two provinces (Jammu and Kashmir) as a reason for polarization in the state, Gupta said that the business chambers and civil society in both should meet regularly and debate on issues confronting the state and take up the matters with the government.
“This will help in bridging the trust deficit,” he said.
Representational Pic (Image Courtesy- Online Media Sources)