SHORT messaging services (SMS) on mobile phones will be restored in J&K Tuesday midnight, the 150th day since the government suspended it in the erstwhile state. Broadband Internet connectivity in all government hospitals in the Kashmir Valley will also be allowed.
Addressing the media, Rohit Kansal, Principal Secretary (Planning and Development), said toll posts across Jammu and Kashmir including Lakhanpur, Railway Station and the Airport with effect from January 1 to provide a level-playing field to industry and trade. “The J&K government levies toll on import and export of various commodities under provisons of J&K Levy of Toll Act 1935. The abolition will cost the UT exchequer nearly Rs 1,500 crore,” he said.
Kansal said the administration has set up nearly 900 touch points to facilitate internet access to students, contractors, tour operators and government officials across Kashmir valley. Nearly six lakh people have taken advantage of the facility, he said. While BSNL resumed its landline services on September 5, post-paid mobile phone services for all operators were restored on October 14.
Relief, but Internet is key
SMS resumption won’t change much in terms of business transactions unless Internet services are up. While OTP is created only in case of online transactions, bank customers will benefit in terms of receiving SMS relating to cheque clearances, ATM withdrawals, bank account balance and other messages.
Doing away with the toll tax was in line with the ‘one-nation, one-tax’ philosophy since tariffs on import and export of commodities amounted to trade distortion and was against the overall interest of consumers. He said imposition of any toll tax not only penalised the consumers by increasing the cost of commodities, but also rendered the entire industrial sector uncompetitive due to high input costs.
The administration has also set up a high-level committee under K K Sharma, advisor to the Lt Governor, to suggest steps for improving industry competitiveness. It will hold consultations with all stakeholders to build a modern and competitive industrial and manufacturing sector.
The administration has also extended the market intervention scheme for apple procurement till March 2020, he said. Over 19 lakh metric tonne of harvested apple has so far been exported under the scheme.