State Economic Reconstruction Forum (SERF), a joint platform of traders Monday, threatened to launch agitation if the government failed to meet their demands of rehabilitation and rightful support immediately.
Traders blamed New Delhi for ‘step motherly’ treatment to Kashmir and sought international support if government of India continued with its ‘dilly dally’ tactics.
“If there is no headway in meeting our demands, we will have no other way but to hit the roads and agitate,” said one of the office bearers during a press conference adding “we will take people along with us.”
SERF was formed after the early September floods which almost devastated Kashmir economy.
SERF alleged New Delhi that it is deliberately not paying any heed to its demands and is barring ways for any international aid. “We are aware we are in a conflict zone but we are not begging, we pay taxes and are demanding our rights as tax payers,” Mohammad Yasin Khan, chairman of the forum told reporters.
The forum demanded if India is not ready to support Kashmiris it should allow international aid so that Kashmir can be rebuilt. “If government on India is not willing to do anything, let it allow international aid,” Mohammad Ashraf Mir, a member of SERF said. He added “We are Muslims region and live in a conflict zone that is why India is barring international aid to reach us.”
SERF is demanding immediate relief for common people and business houses, tax concessions across state and revival and rehabilitation.
Pertinently, the devastating flood which hit the state in the first week of September has rendered countless people homeless and unimaginable losses to almost all the sectors. Even more than one month after the flood, the common people are worried about urgent concerns like shelter, heating, healthcare, sanitation and food for their families. “In Uttarakhand, international agencies got involved just after a week’s time after the area faced deadly flood some time back but such aid is not allowed in Kashmir,” SERF office bearers said.
SERF is alleging authorities of keeping their eyes and ears closed. “The state government is disoriented, its efforts directionless and disorganized. The disaster response efforts of the government could be termed as a ‘Calamity of Rare Severity’ for people,” SERF said. It alleged the state government of being “anxious to escape under the garb of Durbar Move”.
The state government has recently sent a proposal to the central government for a package of Rs 44, 000 crores whereas its own estimate of primary losses was Rs one trillion. “Empirical studies show the consequential/ secondary losses of a disaster to be 2.5 times the amount of the primary losses. How the government plans to account for such a shortfall is a riddle only they can elaborate on,” SERF said.
SERF demanded that the assessment of all losses in all sectors should be done in close collaboration with the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank through the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) as was done in the case of Uttarakhand. The SERF has also demanded a ten year Income Tax exemption for Kashmir Valley.