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Kashmir Chamber writes an 11-point letter to Jammu counterpart (See Full Text)

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SRINAGAR: The newly elected body of the Kashmir Chamber of Industry has responded to the issues raised by its Jammu counterpart. It has sent a letter to Jammu Chamber president and also addressed a hurried arranged news conference in Srinagar in which it has insisted the rollback of GST and Toll Tax.

President of the Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Jammu (CCIJ) Rakesh Gupta had called for a day long strike in Jammu against the BJP ministers for not doing enough for the region and being seemingly unaccountable. It had conveyed the issues to the visiting Home minister Rajnath Singh following which BJP lawmaker Sat Sharma said that “few complaints to the Minister do not matter”.

Seeking abolishing of toll tax “on the pretext to safeguarding the industry”, Gupta said that the industry should be incentivised through alternate mechanism as the state revenue have increased manifold after the implementation of GST. He had expressed dissatisfaction over the slow pace of acquiring land for AIIMS at Vijaypur, questioned the negotiations process being initiated with “few people” who are “illegally occupying some portion of sanctioned land” for the hospital. He had also demanded a high level inquiry into shelving of Rs 76 crore artificial lake project on River Tawi. Besides, he had called for “immediate deportation” of Rohingya Muslim refugees from Jammu.

In response to the “Wake Up Call”, the Kashmir Chamber led by its president Javed Ahmed Tenga has sent the following letter to Gupta. Kashmir Life is reproducing the letter completely. It was released by Tenga in a press conference on Sunday in Srinagar.

“1.          That the Kashmir Chamber unequivocally condemns the statement made by Sat Sharma, State President, BJP on Gulistan TV on the 15th of September, 2017 against the issues raised by the Jammu Chamber as inappropriate and unwarranted. The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry believes that the political establishment has a duty to take the views and opinions expressed by stakeholders in proper perspective and respond with seriousness and maturity which appears to be lacking in the response of Sat Sharma.

  1. The demand of the Jammu Chamber regarding the alleged “unaccountable and insincere” working of the majority of Ministers and the subsequent demand seeking their removal is duly endorsed by the Kashmir Chamber. There is no difference of opinion on the exit of non-performers.
  2. The Kashmir Chamber is also supportive of the demand for abolition of the Toll Tax being charged by the State Government on the pretext of safeguarding industry. Regarding GST, the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry is already on record demanding it’s rollback for the reason that it violates and encroaches upon the unique and special position of the State of Jammu and Kashmir in the Indian Union. Any law seen as an infringement of guaranteed rights will be opposed with all the strength at our command.
  3. The Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry has expressed dissatisfaction at the slow pace of acquiring land for AIIMS at Vijaypur. In this regard, we would question the rationale for having two AIIMS in one State. The AIIMS was originally announced for Kashmir, and after the agitation launched by our Jammu brethren over this, an unprecedented creation of two AIIMS was subsequently announced. Reportedly, they would now be somewhat smaller variants rather than a full fledged AIIMS, commonly referred to as mini-AIIMS.

Here, we would invite your attention to the condition of the hospitals already functioning in Jammu like the Super Speciality Hospital (SSH) of the Government Medical College, Jammu as also Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Narayana Super specialty Hospital which suffer from acute shortage of doctors and faculty. Reportedly, out of the 178 available posts of doctors in SSH, 128 are lying vacant. We share the concerns expressed by  Union Minister of State in PMO, Dr Jitendra Singh on 16th of July, 2017 that the Government may end up opening a “sick AIIMS” in Jammu because of the reluctance of doctors and faculties to work in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. We urge you to reconsider your demand.

  1. The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry supports the concerns of the Jammu Chamber regarding the formulation of the Jammu Master Plan and would re-iterate its demand that the respective chambers of the State be given due representation on the Board of the Development Authorities. The formulation of any worthwhile Master Plan is frustrated with the non-representation of the most important stakeholders in the process. Thus, the Master Plans introduced mostly suffer from infirmities and do not reflect the requirements of the stakeholders. The Kashmir Chamber also demands that the last date of filing objections to the Srinagar Master Plan be extended and the views given by the stakeholders be discussed before finalisation. The needs and requirements of the business community cannot be ignored as it results in the introduction of faulty plans and seriously impedes the growth of the State’s economy.
  2. The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry joins the Jammu Chamber in questioning the wastage of Rs. 76 Crores on the Artificial Lake Project in Jammu. It appears that big and prestigious projects are launched on political whims without going into the viability and practical aspects for such projects.
  3. The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry extends full support to the Jammu Chamber in questioning the wastage of thousands of crores by the Government on the infrastructure for Power. With one of the highest Transmission & Distribution Losses in the world, our State needs a serious relook at the system. Even though, T&D losses have been marginally reduced, still the percentage remains quite alarming. The absence of any Tendering and Procurement Policy has caused losses in lakhs of crores over the years. The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry urges the State Government to have a proper Tendering and Procurement Policy in place for all procurements. Today, major tenders for distribution stand cancelled and caused irreparable losses to our economy. The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce & Industry has already brought the above issues to the notice of the State Electricity Regulatory Commission.
  4. The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry supports the demand seeking issuance of notification regarding continuation of incentives to industries in the State as also the failure of the State to properly present our case for getting incentives on the lines of the proposed package for North Eastern States.
  5. With due respects to your feelings about Maharaja Hari Singh and his contribution, the Kashmir Chamber opposes the demand for a State Holiday on the birth anniversary of Maharaja Hari Singh. The Kashmir Chamber feels that the State has already notified 24 days as holidays and there is a need for reviewing and reducing the existing list of holidays. Keeping in view the Durbar Move and other holidays, we are left with very few working days.
  6. With regard to the demand for deportation of Rohingyas from Jammu, and the stand taken by the Jammu Chamber which we presume would be free from any ulterior motives, the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry suggests that rather than going into constitutional aspects, the Jammu Chamber needs to focus on the humanitarian aspect of the problem. Having said that, the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry is of the considered opinion that the State of Jammu and Kashmir should intervene in providing of relief and shelter to the Rohingya refugees.
  7. At this point we would like to add that humanitarianism is one of the fundamental  principles of the all religions which considers both humanitarian actions and the duty to help as religious obligations by which all humans, rich and poor, are bound.  Human principals dictate that help given to a refugee is no more than his right, irrespective of whichever faith he may belong to. At the same time, we also hail the spirit of the people of Jammu who have always come forward with open arms in such times of crisis and provided all assistance and relief to the persecuted.

    Both our organisations being the  apex trade and commerce bodies of the State, there is no doubt in our minds that there is an urgent need for us to unite and work on issues of common interest at the same time respecting each other’s viewpoint which may differ at times, as would be apparent from the above. We also invite you along with your team to Kashmir for further discussions on the above and other issues.

    In conclusion, we would urge you to reconsider your call for a shutdown, as we believe that being apex trade bodies, we should seek to promote the resolution of problems through dialogue and not be seen as promoters of business interruptions.”

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