SRINAGAR: The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI) leadership, led by President Javed Ahmad Tenga, held a crucial meeting with the Lt Governor, Manoj Sinha, at Raj Bhawan on Thursday. The KCCI delegation briefed LG Sinha about the recent devastation of 5 houseboats, resulting in significant financial losses and loss of lives.
Highlighting the alarming decline in the number of houseboats from about 850 over the past few decades, the KCCI emphasised the urgent need to address the serious challenges faced by stakeholders. The President of KCCI expressed concern, stating, “The diminishing number of houseboats poses an existential threat to this globally known unique heritage product.”
Providing distressing statistics, the KCCI said, “25 houseboats were destroyed in massive fires between 2018 and 2023, with an additional 207 damaged or destroyed due to storms, drowning, and natural calamities between 2009 and 2023.” The delegation informed the LG that permissions for repairs, renovation, and reconstruction are still pending from concerned authorities.
The KCCI put forth specific short-term suggestions to address the crisis starting with immediate relief and rehabilitation for the affected, permission for the reconstruction of houseboats, residential, and service hutments under a single-window system to tackle impending severe weather conditions, supply of timber from the State Forest Corporation at subsidized rates on a fast-track basis and upgrading fire-fighting services in Dal & Nigeen Lakes.
Additionally, the KCCI appealed for the prompt granting of necessary permissions for the rebuilding and reconstruction of 207 houseboats awaiting approval.
President KCCI extended a personal invitation to the LG, inviting him to visit The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce exhibition venue at IITF during the “Kashmir Divas” celebration at Pragati Maidan on 18th November 2023. The LG accepted the invitation, assuring his presence at the fair.
During the meeting, the KCCI urged the LG to influence Jammu & Kashmir Bank to introduce another One-Time Settlement (OTS) Scheme at the MSME level, covering borrowers with loans exceeding 50 lakhs. This initiative aims to facilitate the recovery of funds and allow unsettled borrowers to clear their accounts.
Furthermore, the KCCI brought to the LG’s attention the absence of direct flights from Srinagar to Jeddah, hindering the travel of over 30,000 Umrah pilgrims, especially during winter months. They requested the LG’s intervention to facilitate direct flights between Srinagar and Jeddah.
In response, the LG assured the KCCI that the raised issues would be positively considered.