Kashmir-based business leaders on Tuesday demanded immediate rollback of ‘exorbitant’ increase in rent by Wakf Board on its properties including shops and commercial establishments.
They accused the Board of misleading the government with regard to the amount of the rent collected from shopkeepers and hotel owners.
Addressing a press conference at a local hotel here Tuesday, President, Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation (KTMF), Muhammad Yaseen Khan said the Board has announced an unimaginable 3000 per cent increase in rent for its 1400 shops and establishments. “If the board succeeds in it, this would also create a huge problem for all the shopkeepers/traders in Kashmir whose rents may be increased on this pattern by the respective landlords.”
Khan issued an ultimatum of one week for the Board to “address this issue.”
“It is quite astonishing that while the unrest still continues and the ‘protest calendar’ is on, the board has resorted to such a drastic step aimed to harass the traders.”
He expressed apprehensions that this hike may have been announced at the behest of someone. “The government should answer our questions on why we are being harassed and our businesses not allowed to run smoothly?
“I don’t think they (the government) want peace here and let businesses prosper. Wakf Board has sent Tehsildars for rent recovery and now they may send police which will lead to harassment of traders,” Khan who is also chairman of Kashmir Economic Alliance said.
Khan said instead of generating revenue from its vast land bank available with it, the Board is “resorting to anti-trader steps.”
“The shopkeepers were paying around Rs 10,000 on account of rent per year to be enhanced by 15 per cent after every three years. Though that hike was expected and acceptable but hike up to Rs 3.5 lakh per year is unheard of,” Khan said.
President Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) Mushtaq Ahmad Wani on the occasion accused Wakf Board of misleading the Chief Minister who is also chairperson of the board by providing “false rent figures”.
“CM has been told that Hotel Taj located in the city centre is paying only a rent of Rs 10,000 while as the fact is that this hotel pays Rs 3.5 lakh rent to Wakf Board.
“We want the issue of rent to be solved amicably but demand that a rent assessment committee be formed in which trade heads along with government/Wakf Board officials are also members. There should be rent assessment drive and we are ready to pay the rent prevailing in a particular vicinity but not such a huge hike as pressed in by the Board. We have proposed this to the VC Wakf Board in last few meetings but to no avail,” Wani said.