Expressing serious reservations with regard to the hasty declaration of Non Performing Assets (NPAs) by J&K Bank, former finance minister Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari on Tuesday urged the Lieutenant Governor G.S Murmu to show some sense of responsibility towards the business community of Jammu and Kashmir who are being unnecessarily harassed and intimidated by the Bank.
In a statement, Bukhari said that Jammu and Kashmir Bank is one of the most iconic institutions of J&K but regrettably, it’s bureaucratic approach is continuing to plague its’ functioning.
“Sadly the government of J&K seems to be manipulating the functioning of JK Bank like running a government treasury. The government has forgotten that the Bank needs to be run professionally and all its decisions need to be taken by professionals rather than bureaucrats who disappointingly don’t see a reason to empathize with the shattered economy of this region,” Bukhari remarked.
He said that the Banks across the globe do go for settlements with their clients in their hard and pressing times but unfortunately the JK Bank has stopped the settlement process with its clients for the last seven months for unknown reasons.
“If the government is serious in revival of shattered economy of Jammu and Kashmir then it must ask the JK Bank to go for advances and settlements with its clientele especially the businessmen, traders, manufacturers, industrialists, hoteliers, orchardists, farmers, transporters, houseboat owners, tour and travel operators and all other allied sectors of economy. Or otherwise, the economy of J&K is doomed to collapse which can eventually lead to crumpling of Bank’s existence,” he added.
Bukhari said that being the major shareholder of JK Bank, the government here needs to come forward to rescue the functional autonomy of the JK Bank and safeguard the interests of its clientele for preserving a symbiotic relationship.
“You can’t harass your clients and expect a steady growth of any financial institution. The government must take all the chambers of commerce, associations of traders, manufacturers, industrialists, hoteliers, transporters, fruit growers and other allied sectors of economy and management of the JK Bank on board to revitalize the economic trajectory of Jammu and Kashmir,” he demanded.
Bukhari opined that the JK Bank, as a pristine financial institution had assumed tremendous significance and the people from all regions of Jammu and Kashmir were proud of it. “But sadly it has deteriorated in its functioning which has caused immense sufferings to the people especially the traders, businessmen, hoteliers, restaurant owners, houseboat owners, gold associations, transporters, manufacturers, small, medium and big industrial units and other allied sectors of trade and commerce who are the basic pillars of economy of our region,” the former finance minister observed.
He said that instead of instilling confidence among traders and business communities working in hostile conditions, the JK Bank is being accused of persecution and harassment of its clients. “This harassment is being done in the name of asset possession. The families of borrowers mainly the business community are struggling for their survival and most of them are circumstantial defaulters. The Bank should not treat them as wilful defaulters. The present dispensation must intervene into the matter at an earliest,” Bukhari demanded.
While going for recoveries, he said, the JK Bank should not harass the business community and instead adopt a compassionate approach to deal with the defaulters. Bukhari observed that the Bank should take into consideration that several vital sectors of J&K economy like tourism, horticulture, handicrafts, hotel industry, restaurants, houseboats owners, transporters and IT-related units— witnessed a major slump after August 5, 2019.
“Besides the unprecedented security measures, the non- availability of the Internet further dented the economy of J&K. This is not something unusual but our economy has suffered heavily since 2008 and 2010 unrest which was later coupled by the 2014 floods and 2016 unrest. All these factors need to be taken into consideration while going for settlements wherever possible,” he remarked.
Bukhari said that the RBI had also allowed the banks to go for restructuring and rehabilitation of stress accounts to save them from turning into non-performing assets. “Unfortunately, this has also turned out to be a half-hearted exercise. The business community is the worst-hit sector in J&K and concrete steps need to be taken to revive this sector on top priority,” he advocated.
Bukhari observed that thousands of families connected with trade and commerce in Kashmir are frustrated as banks and financial institutions have started going for police raids to recover their loan amounts.
“Intimidation and threats from the Bank that it will seize the properties and lock the business units against which the loans were raised are unfair in the present circumstances faced by the people of Jammu and Kashmir. This kind of approach adopted to recover loans has put the traders and other business communities on the edge. It will not only play with the reputation of traders and businessmen but will surely tarnish the image of the Bank itself,” the statement reads.