After Delhi’s refusal, Joint Chambers demand return of power projects

“Not silent on 35-A and GST, consensus being reached, joint statement soon”

“Mischievous elements behind braid chopping, Police not transparent”   

“Need to bridge the gap between all regions, hatred will lead us to a civil war”

Srinagar: The Joint Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Jammu, Kashmir) reacted to the statement of the Union Power Minister R K Singh that power projects won’t be returned to the state and compared the state to other states of the country.

Both Chambers made it clear that the demand is supported by political parties across board and is a part of the Agenda for Alliance too.

“Without going into the merits of the issue, it would be pertinent to mention that the return of the power projects has been an important demand of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and is based on facts and logic. The Honourable Prime Minister is requested to restrain members of his team from issuing any such statement, which apart from being premature, may be seen as a disrespect to the sentiments of the People of Jammu and Kashmir, “ said Nasir Hamid Khan, Senior Vice President, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Rakesh Gupta, President of the Jammu Chamber, said that this is not for the first time that both the chambers are demanding the return of power projects.

“They (Govt) should have a reason to say no to us. From 1947 to 2017, it has been 70 years now. Don’t we have the right to stand up on our own feet? Won’t the centre allow us to do that? And we are demanding the return of only those projects whose agreements have expired,” Gupta said.

He added that both the Chambers will convince and force the PDP-BJP coalition to take up the issue with the Government of India at the earliest.

Braid Chopping: Chaos being created by mischievous elements

Members of the both Chambers while speaking regarding the mysterious braid chopping incidents suspect that ‘mischievous elements’ are behind the incidents to create chaos and confusion in the state.

They also added that ‘mobs and vigilante groups’ attacking visitors and migrant workers are not signs of a civilized society.

“These things are being done with a purpose of doing irreparable damage to the image of our state and bring development to a grinding halt. Our chambers jointly appeal to the general public not to fall prey to rumours and propaganda about braid chopping incidents,” the joint statement read.

Gupta however added that police is not being transparent in the matter.

“These things are related to religion also. If someone attacks our mothers and sisters in such a way, that won’t be acceptable at all. But we feel that the police department is also not transparent in this matter. There should be a video recording of the victim’s statement. There should be a physician and a psychiatrist present when the statement is being recorded,” Gupta said while adding, “We want clarity on the issue. The statements which are being issued that it’s mass hysteria are being issued without any proof.”

Not silent on 35-A, consensus being deliberated upon’

Recently in a joint press conference, Presidents of the both chambers had said that they won’t be raking up any ‘conflicting issues’.

“With respect to the sentiments and views of people of both the regions – will restrain themselves from raising such issues which may have a tendency to vitiate the environment, have political colors and are not directly related to trade, commerce and industry,” the joint press note stated.

However, in reply to a question, they said that the chambers have decided to stay quite or silent on issues like the abrogation of Article 35-A, members of the both chambers said that they are trying to reach a consensus and will issue a joint statement soon.

“Regarding issues like 35-A and GST, we have already said that till we don’t reach a consensus we won’t say anything. But Jammu Chamber is equally concerned and we are in deliberations with the Kashmir Chamber and we will soon come with a Joint statement,” said Gupta.

He added, “We are not silent. We are talking on every issue which affects the special status of the state. And we are closing in on a consensus. People should not think that Chambers are not talking about such serious issues. If anyone else is not talking, but be sure that Chambers are serious and talking.’

Khan pointed out that the positive side is that both the chambers agree that JK is a special state with a special constitutional position. He added even if a consensus is not reached, both chambers will keep on working together.

“I think the positive you should take this statement is that both Chambers believe that Jammu and Kashmir has a special constitutional position and it should remain intact. And we do have divergent views in Jammu and Kashmir and we are working towards a consensus. And it is not important that we will reach a consensus but we will still keep on working together,” Khan said.

‘So much hatred will lead us to Civil War’

Gupta while appealing the people of all three regions (Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh) said that the religious and regional divide has brought the people very close to a civil war. He added that there is a need to bridge the gap and it should be started with the women of the regions are they are the first to bear the brunt.

“I also appeal to the people of the state that the religious and the regional divide which we are witnessing as of now is not good for us at all. This was never a part of our history as well as culture. The hatred which we witnesses in all three regions of the state nowadays has to be taken care of,” Gupta said.

He added, “It can be started with interactions between women groups from all sides as it is the women folk who are the first to bear the brunt. So we are working on this and a group of women from Jammu will come to Kashmir and likewise. The group should include housewives, working women, teachers, doctors, basically women from every field. They should sit face to face and iron out differences.”

He pointed out that forces are afoot to further make us hate each other which would lead us to a civil war.

“And we know that there are forces who want to further deepen this gap. But we should not allow that to happen as it would take us closer to a civil war,” Gupta concluded.

Resurrecting Tourism: ‘Relief and state’s hand holding important but temporary’

Both the chambers also feel that there is a need to resurrect the critically stressed sectors of the economy which include tourism.

“Relief and hand holding by the state, although necessary, can only be temporary measures,” the joint statement read.

“With this regard to the tourism sector, we realize that the immediate generation of business is critical at this stage. The chambers propose to jointly lead a high powered delegation for direct interaction with the state governments and chambers of potential markets across the country. It will be a promotional exercise primarily undertaken by the private sector and all major tourism bodies are requested to assist us in making this a result oriented promotion,” the statement maintained.


‘Rather than restructuring loans, explore other options’

Both the the chambers also maintained that the demand of extension of moratorium period for the repayment of loans made by business organizations, is a concern shared by them too.

The chambers feel that the 2014 floods, the 2016 ‘disturbance’, demonetization, economic slowdown and faulty implementation of the GST has resulted in borrowers not being able to meet their repayment obligations.

“These factors were totally out of the hands of borrowers. As the date of expiry of the moratorium is coming closer, Chambers feel that rather than going for yet another restructuring, maybe it is time to explore other options,” the joint statement observed.

The joint chambers proposed the following options:

“Adjustment of interest on restructured loans funded by banks (FITL) for the period from the date of original restructuring to June, 2018 through waiver of the entire interest.”

“Extension and restructuring in repayment of principal amount of loan by a marginal time period till June, 2018.”

“For those borrowers who have not opted for any rehabilitation schemes post flood, concessions by way of reduction of 5 percent in rate of interest for the period commencing from 2014 till date.”

“Banks to make a clear distinction between chronic and wilful defaulters and borrowers whose repayment capacity has been adversely impacted by the circumstances. Whereas, our Chambers have a zero tolerance policy for chronic and wilful defaulters but we would go on to put all our weight behind circumstantial defaulters. They deserve this and maybe more.”

“We would also propose a special preferential scheme for new and young entrepreneurs who wish to make a fresh start in commercial activities.”

“With regard to the enforcement of the SARFAESI Act, our respective Chambers are of the considered opinion that keeping in view the current conditions, any action taken under this Act would be a contradiction to the relief and rehabilitation measures being proposed and detrimental to the larger economic interests of the State.”


‘Need to stop giving money to sick PSUs’

The Joint Chambers continued their demand for a review of functioning of the Public Sector Undertakings.

“If urgent remedial measures are not taken, the economic damage could be beyond repair. As the government continues to pour good money down the drain in shape of  equity, loans and grants to these sick PSUs, there is a need to overhaul polices and take hard decisions,” both the Chambers  observed.

The Joint Chambers in this regard have decided to constitute joint study groups to regularly make the quantum of loss and wastage public.

“It would look into political interference, lack of accountability in particular PSUs and  most importantly their potential profitability. In this regard, we would start this exercise with focusing on the PSUs namely The J&K Tourism Development Corporation, The State Road Transport Corporation, The State Power Development Corporation and The J&K Cements Limited,” the joint statement pointed out.

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