We are working in a space legitimized by Sheikh Abdullah after 1975 ‘Wapsi’: Akhtar

Naeem Akhtar, the J&K government spokesperson.

‘Fiscal autonomy was finished the day JK Bank was brought under RBI’

‘Under NC, 48 amendments of Indian constitution were extended to state’

‘During Rather’s time, GST was not an issue at all’

Srinagar: Government spokesperson Naeem Akhtar said that National Conference is the party which eroded the foundations of the JK’s special status, legitimised everything and are accusing the PDP of the same.

Speaking exclusively to FreePressKashmir Akhtar said, “Shiekh (Abdullah) Saab’s ‘Wapsi’ in 1975 was a welcome step. We are also working in the same space which he created after coming back. If he wouldn’t have come back, this space which we have wouldn’t have been credible.”

He however, pointed out that the ‘historical accord’ came at a price.

Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah (left) with Indira Gandhi.

“He gave legitimacy to this space. But when he came (into power as CM) he said that he would protect the autonomy. But in July that year, instead of going to the assembly, without asking anyone, he made a deputy secretary in New Delhi write that from today the nomenclature of the political functionaries of the most important provisions of the constitution of Jammu and Kashmir can be changed. That was the price for that historical accord,” Akhtar said.

He added, “So the people who eroded the foundations, who legitimized everything, are accusing us of the same.”

The government spokesperson who is also the Public Works Minister said that people know about Goods and Services Tax (GST) because PDP wanted a debate on it unlike National Conference under whose watch around 48 amendments were extended to the state.

“This is for the first time that the state assembly is receiving its due authority. Till date, around 48 amendments have taken place in the constitution of India and they have all been extended to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. How many people know that?,” he asked.

He further added, “You know about the GST because we are a responsible government. And due to such debates, the mainstream will be strengthened.”

He ‘reminded’ National Conference when Abdul Rahim Rather, the then Finance Minister headed the empowerment committee, GST was not an issue at all.

Former Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather (center).

“GST is a reform. It will be a major relief to the trade and a boost to the economy of the state. That is why it took this country (India) 12 years to finalize it,” Akhtar said adding, “And this state had a distinct honour of having it’s then Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather heading the empowerment committee for as long as six years. At that time, GST was not an issue. But now somehow they have sniffed an opportunity to create trouble.”

“I don’t know what their actual agenda is. But they never expressed these doubts earlier. Mr. Rather (as chairperson of empowered Committee) has never said on record that we should have a different tax regime for Jammu and Kashmir,” Akhtar further added.

He also stressed that the debate about eroding the fiscal autonomy of the state is pointless as that was surrendered when Jammu and Kashmir Bank was brought under the purview of the Reserve Bank of India.

“National Conference lamenting about erosion of fiscal autonomy is not fair. The biggest tool related to our fiscal autonomy was the JK Bank which was like our reserve bank. If we even needed like Rs. 4000 crores, we didn’t have to go any where else. Today we don’t have it. As simple as that,” Akhtar said.

He added, “That autonomy was finished that day when the Bank was brought under the Reserve Bank. This matter was brought up in a meeting in 2004 between then Union Finance Minister Jashwant Singh and late Mufti Sahab.”

Akhtar believes that till the new tax regime is not implemented, its real affects will not be known.

“We have to take it (GST) as trade, as a business, not as political autonomy or constitutional autonomy. GST has been established in more than 160 countries in the world. Now are we going to stay in our cocoon that we have constitutional guarantees, which we hold very sacred and we will not compromise on that. But that being in place, what should happen in trade that needs to be understood,” said Akhtar.

He added, “If we go into the GST regime, what will be the situation? Unless we don’t do that exercise and analysis, we would only be harping on politics.”


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