Srinagar: A delegation of senior members of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry led by its former president Javed Ahmad Tenga, held an interaction with Padurang K Pole, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir in his office chambers regarding the resumption of economic activities and other related issues.
Other members who participated were Nasir Hamid Khan, former Senior Vice President (KCC&I) and Faiz Ahmad Bakshi former Secretary General.
In a statement, the KCCI spokesperson said that Javed Ahmad Tenga appreciated the vital role of Pole in the successful management of COVID in Kashmir. He invited the attention of Pole towards the serious situation building up in the Handicrafts Sector and stated that a goods inventory of around Rs 600 Crores was lying unsold.
He requested Pole to support the suggestion for the Central and State Governments, PSU’s and Institutions to reserve a minor percentage of their routine purchases for Kashmir Brand of Handicraft products including walnut furniture, carpets and chain stitch rugs, shawls, paper machie, crewel furnishings and other products. He said that this would not only help in the liquidation of stocks without any extra burden on the purchases as this expenditure is already budgeted but would also prove to be a super booster for this sector. In the meantime, he urged that a monthly cash assistance of Rs5,000/- per month be provided for our artisans and weavers.
Javed said that in view of the delicate condition of our artisans and weavers who have lost the capacity to meet their loan obligations and with the view of providing them with a fresh start, it was necessary that the loans given to artisans and weavers be completely waived off. The principal loan amount per artist was a meagre Rs 90,000/- and the whole impact on the Government would be in the vicinity of only Rs 200 Crores which was nothing when compared to farmer loan waivers announced by various States ranging between Rs 1,000 Crores to Rs 60,000 Crores.
Nasir Hamid Khan requested that in view of a third wave of Covid predicted and future lockdowns not being ruled out, it was necessary that the category of permissible activities be expanded to include bakeries, departmental stores/supermarkets, automobile dealers/service centres, books and stationery shops. He stated that the sectors dealing in perishable items needed to be permited to operate round the clock so that fresh edible items are available to the population and unnecessary rush is avoided at these places. He also suggested that with shopping areas having minimal customer movement like the Polo View Market and other similar zones heavily dependent on tourism, it is suggested that there should be permission to open for five days in a week till the time the tourist inflow increases at which time the administration may take a call keeping in view the Covid pandemic management.
Faiz Bakshi raised the issues related with the tourism sector. He stated that with the steadily reduction of covid cases and rise in temperatures across the country, the tourist arrivals were expected to increase. In this regard, it was important that a foolproof testing and detection mechanism was put in place both at the airport and road entry points for the incoming tourists and other people. He also requested that in view of the lockdown-induced disruptions, the Government may consider automatic renewal/extension of registrations/licences of Hotels, Restaurants, Travel Agents/Tour Operators and Houseboats with the Department of Tourism, Municipal Corporation and other Departments which have lapsed for a period of one year ie the 31st of March, 2022. He also urged for waiver of fixed demand charges for electricity and water for the Covid period and reduction in the Municipal charges. He also suggested that cash assistance for Houseboat Owners, Travel Agents/Tour Operators and Hospitality Sector also needed to be considered.
Faiz Bakshi also appreciated the keen interest taken by Pole in the restoration and cleaning up of the Khushalsar Lake. He stated that the preservation and upkeep of our water bodies was very important for our tourism sector. He stated that similar interventions should also be carried out for all other water bodies and waterways. He also stated that the development of the Kashmir Triassic Fossil Park at Khunmoh could also help in converting this site into an important tourist spot. He sought the intervention of Pole for utilisation of the amount of Rs 50.00 lacs through the Department of Tourism earmarked under the Smart City Project for fencing and creating infrastructure at this site. He also stated that the discovery of Woolly Mammoth at Galandar had evoked a lot of interest in the presence of more such fossils in Kashmir and this also needed to be explored.
Padurang K Pole while responding to the suggestions sought details about the handicrafts stocks lying unsold and assured the delegation that the suggestion would be considered favourably. He said that the suggestions about expansion of the permissible activities in lockdown would also be considered. He stated that the administration was also hopeful that the tourist inflow would be picking up in the coming months and in this regard it was important to ensure that Covid appropriate behaviour is demonstrated by the tourism stakeholders including shikarawalla’s and pony-wallah’s. He said that the stakeholders should hold proper awareness programs for all persons coming in direct contact with the tourists so that the business cycle goes on uninterrupted or with minimum disruption.
The delegation also informed Pole that in view of the elections of the KCC&I getting postponed due to the lockdown imposed in April, the institution was suffering due to the absence of an elected body. They proposed that in view of the Covid SOP’s, the elections could be held in a staggered manner spread over a period of one week. Pole stated that the proposal should be forwarded to the Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar who had been directed to supervise the election process by the Hon’ble High Court.