Kashmir Inc seeks 'stimulus package' for revival of economy

Stating that Kashmir economy was facing extended lockdown since August 2019, a newly formed business body Wednesday urged the Centre and the J&K governments to announce a stimulus package for revival of businesses in the Union Territory.

In its maiden press conference here, amid the ongoing COVID19 lockdown, JOINT, an amalgam of 33 organisations representing industry, trade, business, and farm and service sectors, sought a stimulus package for J&K, stating its demand was not unreasonable as Kashmir economy was facing extended lockdown since August 2019.

“Our agenda is to address economic distress. We are in a very precarious situation as our businesses are suffering. We have never come out of the lockdown”, said Sheikh Ashiq, KCCI President.

Ashiq said there was “no concrete follow up” from the government side after their meetings with Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Minister of State in the PMO, Jitendra Singh, who were apprised about the economic challenges and possible solutions.

“Every segment of our economy is in distress. Though government has now eased restrictions and is asking businesses to resume, but in Kashmir we are facing precarious situation as there is liquidity crunch. People don’t have money and purchasing power has diminished,” Ashiq said.

“Education is suffering. Our children are suffering due to lack of 4G internet as 2G does not work. National Highway is in pathetic condition. How can our business prosper? Even the most advanced countries are asking for and announcing financial bailout packages. That is not unusual. But one fails to understand why government is shying away from announcing a special package for J&K, which is facing business losses for the last 30 years,” Ashiq said.

He said it was “high time that the centre and J&K government should take note of the situation. “We are not begging. We don’t go and ask for relief. We ask for empathy and understanding of this situation that Kashmir’s business and the economy is in,” he said.

He said Kashmir has witnessed 3,000 days of lockdown in last three decades, adding that the problem was three decades old. “Our businesses suffer every now and then due to the political turmoil. Travel traders are disappointed. 2020 tourism year is gone and now there also apprehension about 2021,” he said.

Iqbal Tramboo, Vice Chairman, Kashmir Economic Alliance, said with only five lakh people in J&K working as government employees, the livelihood of the rest of the population was in a “precarious condition”.

Highlighting the low NPA situation in J&K as compared to rest of India, Iqbal said people of J&K pay about Rs 3,600 crore interest to various banks on the loans.

“So, if we see the quantum of the interest payment to banks against the income from trade, we see that a huge amount actually goes back to the system. In these circumstances, how do we actually survive”, Iqbal said.