SRINAGAR: A delegation of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry led by its President Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad held an interaction with Baseer A. Khan, Advisor to Lt Governor, Jammu and Kashmir at the Civil Secretariat. Representatives of the Automobile Dealers Association, Hotels and Houseboat Owners also participated in the meeting.
Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad thanked the Hon’ble Advisor for the staggered opening of the business establishments in Kashmir and urged for further opening up of the transport sector which had been
Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad apprised the Advisor about the unique difficulties faced by this sector due to height constraints of tunnels along the Jammu-Srinagar Highway which prevented Trailer Trucks from delivering vehicles to Kashmir. Vehicles have to be offloaded at Jammu only.
The imposition of COVID related protocols had drastically reduced the number of vehicles that could be transferred to Srinagar. This has resulted in huge stockpiling of new vehicles at Jammu. It also caused revenue losses to the Government by way of reduction in the number of registrations. It was suggested that if the Banihal Checkpoint is designated as a Transit Point for transfer of vehicle, the dealers could deploy a separate set of drivers for handing over vehicles at such transit points after proper sanitization.
Advisor while suggesting that the Lower Munda/Qazigund Point would be better suited for such transfers said that the proposal would be examined and necessary directions would be issued shortly.
Wahid Malik, President, KHAROF informed the Advisor about the pending payments of Hotels taken over for COVID operations. He stated that almost three months had passed but so far not even the rent had been fixed.
The Advisor informed the delegation that payments in this regard had already been released to the District Disaster Management Authority. He took up the issue with the Chairman, DDMA and asked for expediting the fixation of rent and releasing of payments towards the local Hotel industry. Mr. Wahid also urged for waiver of demand charges and reduction of tariff for the hotel industry. He stated that the earlier reduction of power tariff had been withdrawn after only one year. Due to the situation, the tourism industry had come under tremendous stress.
The Advisor stated that the KCC&I had raised this issue before and some relief in this regard was being contemplated.
Manzoor Pakhtoon, representing the tourism industry apprised the Advisor about the difficult situation the Houseboat Owners were undergoing due to the refusal to renew licences of the houseboats and also due to the new Houseboat Policy announced.
He stated that the policy was announced without any consultations with the stakeholders and had created serious impediments for this fragile sector.
He stated that the Policy had banned construction of new houseboats and had also issued stringent conditions for registration of the existing houseboats. This had resulted in most of the houseboats in the Dal Lake and Nageen Lake being without valid registration and also deprived them from availing benefits announced in the MSME Sector and other incentives. Coupled with the impact of the lockdown, this had had a crippling impact on this fragile sector. He stated that the stakeholders had also approached the KCC&I for taking up their issue with the concerned authorities.
The Advisor stated that the Government was aware of the stress this vulnerable sector was going through and said that the issue would be examined in detail. On being requested to have an interaction with the representatives of the House Boat owners he said that he would convene a meeting with the KCC&I and the concerned stakeholders within this week to listen to their grievances and settle their issues.
The statement said that Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad thanked the Advisor for his support to the issues raised and hoped that necessary directions in this regard would be issued shortly.