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Thursday, November 17, 2016

RBI turns down relief to businesses as J&K Govt fails to declare Kashmir ‘riot-hit’ in 2016 turbulence

Did BJP botch up PDP’s plan to ‘extort’ concessions for the Valley traders who supported Hurriyat’s shutdown call for 4 months?

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Nov 16: Amid speculations of differences between the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) over lending some assistance to the turbulence-hit Kashmiri traders and industrialists, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has rejected the J&K State Level Bankers Committee’s request with the argument that the Mehbooba Mufti government had failed to declare any district or area of the State as “affected by riots or disturbances”.

Well-placed sources in New Delhi revealed to STATE TIMES that the then Chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Bank Ltd (JKB), Mushtaq Ahmad, in his capacity as Convenor of J&K SLBC had written a letter to RBI on October 1, 2016, seeking restructuring and resettlement of the loan liquidations in favour of the Kashmir-based businesses on account of the summer turbulence that crippled life and froze entire business activity for over three months.

The RBI examined the proposal for over a month as the new Chairman of JKB and Convener of SLBC, Parvez Ahmad, too pursued the same assiduously, claiming that the State economy had suffered losses worth over Rs 15,000 crores due to the turbulence that was triggered off by the Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani’s killing in an encounter on July 8. Finally the proposal was categorically rejected on the plea that the coalition government had not declared any district as riot-affected.

In his letter No: 342/03.01.17/2016-17 dated November 15, 2016, RBI’s General Manager, S.C. Sharma, wrote to the new Convener of J&K SLBC and Chairman JKB Parvez Ahmad, that “in terms of our Master Directions on Natural Calamities 2016 dated July 01, 2016, only genuine persons duly identified by the state administration as having been affected by the riots/disturbances are provided assistance”.

“In light of our circular, it is imperative that the areas/people affected are identified to consider for the special dispensation. As the district collector/ state government has not yet declared any area as affected by riots or disturbances, the special dispensation required by J&K Bank (SLBC convenor, J&K State) does not fall under our circular”, the RBI GM communicated to Chairman JKB.

Asked why the J&K Government had not declared any district or entire Kashmir valley as “affected by riots and disturbances”, that could have facilitated the RBI to acquiesce into the JKB proposal, Commissioner-Secretary Finance Navin Choudhary claimed that he had no knowledge of the proposal having been turned down. “As of now, concessions are accorded for natural calamities. Admittedly, it’s a man-made disaster but a matter of debate. The State Government as well as the businesses in Kashmir have been badly affected due to the turmoil. We have lost 50% of the revenue. But let’s wait for the RBI decision”, Mr Choudhary told STATE TIMES on telephone.

Did the State Government have any proposal to declare any district or the entire Kashmir valley as affected by the riots and disturbances? “I am not aware of it. The State Home Department may have such knowledge”, Mr Choudhary asserted.

Principal Secretary Home, R.K. Goyal, said that there was “absolutely no proposal” under the government’s consideration to declare any district or the entire Kashmir valley as affected by riots and disturbances.

Additional Secretary in Chief Minister’s Secretariat and Director of Information, Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, too asserted that “to the best of my knowledge” there was no proposal under consideration to declare Kashmir as affected by riots and disturbances. “Yesterday only there was a threadbare discussion in a high level official meeting on the losses and damages suffered by the people and the government. But, nothing like notifying any area as riot-affected surfaced in the deliberations”, Dr Choudhary said.

Commissioner-Secretary Finance Navin Choudhary, nevertheless, asserted that the State Government had decided to provide some relief to the traders and businesspersons who would come forward for resettlement of their tax payment subject to the condition that they deposit the first of the six fixed instalments within 30 days. He said that Finance Department had notified SROs 360, 361 and 362 dated November 13, 2016, for the benefit of the defaulter traders who had failed to pay their sales and other taxes over the years. “We are not charging any interest or penalties from them”, he added.

Bureaucratic and political sources, however, insisted that some leaders and Ministers of the PDP were strongly in favour of obtaining some relief, on the pattern of the floods of September 2014, for the Valley-based traders and entrepreneurs while pointing out that the “miscreants” had burned down factories and felled orchards and all the shops and transport industry had been grounded to a halt for four months. However, their counterparts in the BJP opposed the idea with the argument that Kashmir’s traders had publicly supported the Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s shutdown call and offered to give “sacrifices” for achieving Azadi.

Kashmir’s traders and businesspersons, according to the BJP Ministers and leaders, did not deserve any amnesty or relief from the banks or the government.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

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