Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha Saturday announced a Rs 1,350 crore relief and rehabilitation package for the business community in Jammu and Kashmir, in light of the Covid-19 economic slowdown.
The main component of the package is 5% interest subvention (a grant by the government) to all borrowers “irrespective of size”, which would cost the administration Rs 950 crore, and would be available for six months in the current financial year, the LG said, terming the move unprecedented.
“There are special circumstances here. For the last several years, people involved in business, trade, industry or artisans have faced a lot of difficulties. I am happy to announce that the administration has approved a Rs 1,350 crore package for the business sector which has been battling an economic crisis,” Sinha said, adding that the package was in addition to the announcements by the Prime Minister under the AatmaNirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.
Sinha also announced 50% waiver for one year on fixed-demand charges for industrial and commercial consumers, extension till December 31 for filing of GST reimbursement claims, and exemption of stamp duty up to March 2021 for all borrowers.
The LG said that the package had been worked out by a committee after meeting several business delegations in August. Constituted under advisor K K Sharma, with Principal Secretary (Finance) Arun Mehta and Industries Secretary M K Dwivedi as members, it had submitted its recommendations on September 1.
“Under the AatmaNirbhar Bharat Abhiyan package, Rs 1,400 crore have already been provided to people through J&K Bank. Also, J&K has got Rs 6,000 for power sector reforms under the package and lakhs of people including labourers have been provided rations and money,” he said.
Welcoming the package, Sheikh Ashiq, president of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), said that after 14 months, “something positive” is taking place on the ground. The KCCI had earlier put the loss to business between August 2019 and August this year at Rs 40,000 crore. “I believe that all that is within the powers of the UT administration has been charted out in the package, but we would want this to be the beginning and not the end of measures to revive business in J&K,” Ashiq said, adding that they would have preferred interest subvention for a year.
Political parties in Kashmir, however, called the package a “crude joke” given the huge setback. ‘The losses incurred by the industries sector post August 5, 2019, clampdown (when the special status of J&K was abrogated) and the Covid-19 lockdown that succeeded it have broken the back of J&K’s economy… The recompense is just a paltry Rs 1,350 crore. Out of this, a major chunk has been earmarked to waive off impending bills,” the National Conference said.
The PDP also called the package “negligible”, while dubbing the distress a “State-created disaster to economically disempower people”. “Good that the new LG has tried to rebuild the economy, but Kashmir is in need of a political process and Delhi should respond politically,” the party’s youth wing president, Waheed-ur-Rehman Para, said.
While welcoming the package as “a good beginning”, the J&K Apni Party urged the government to be more “liberal” in view of the state of J&K’s economy.
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