A delegation of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry led by Mr. Nasir Hamid Khan, Senior Vice President held the first meeting of the Joint Economic Monitoring Group constituted under the directions of the Hon’ble Governor. The Group has been constituted to monitor the regular redressal of economic issues and follow-up on the decisions of the Government taken from time to time. The Group is headed by the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir and has all major Head of Departments including Chief Engineer I&FC, PWD (R&B), PDD, Director Srinagar Airport, representative of Municipality, SDA, LAWDA, Horticulture, Tourism, Handicrafts, and other enforcement agencies of the Government. Meeting was held in the office chambers of the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir. The Divisional Commissioner has directed the holding of weekly meetings of the Group for speedy disposal of pending issues.
The agenda of the meeting was mainly regarding the Air/Road Connectivity, revival of Carpet/Handicraft Sector, problems faced by the Entrepreneurs like non-availability of land and procedural constraints like Pollution Clearances, Power Tariff issue of the Tourism Industry, Conservation of the Dal Lake, Crop Insurance Scheme, Prevention and Management of Floods and the restoration of the Cross-LOC Trade.
The Senior Vice President reiterated the suggestion made by the KCC&I with regard to connectivity problem and stated that the transportation charges for vehicles had skyrocketed due to the road problem. It was brought to the notice of the administration that transportation charges of goods per truck from New Delhi to Srinagar had touched 85,000/-, Jammu-Srinagar Rs 28,000/-, Punjab-Srinagar Rs 55,000/- in some cases and transporters were not willing to ply their vehicles on this sector. As a consequence, the prices of commodities had also increased. Due to the intervention of the administration, around 3000 stranded vehicles had been cleared which had brought a measure of relief. The Divisional Commissioner briefed the participants about the various measures taken to resolve the road linkage problem. He informed the KCC&I members that urgent meetings had been scheduled in this week with the National Highway authorities who had assured that the road position would be stabilized within a week. He also informed the members that the administration was working towards providing an alternative corridor from the Mughal Road for transportation of goods and passengers. The KCC&I members apprised the Divisional Commissioner about various impediments on this road link and suggested for follow-up on the Governments decisions to declare the Mughal Road as an National Highway. The KCC&I delegation also urged for bringing the Jammu-Srinagar air-link under the UDAN Scheme of the Civil Aviation Ministry. The scheme is for the un-served and under-served airports under the Civil Aviation Policy aimed at making air travel affordable for the common man. It would bring a big relief to the Tourism Sector and the general public as the per ticket cost comes to around Rs. 1250/- for this sector. The Divisional Commissioner requested the Director, Srinagar Airport for getting a report on the UDAN Scheme and it’s applicability for the Jammu-Srinagar sector.
With regard to inter-city connectivity, the KCC&I members informed the Divisional Commissioner that the developmental plans for connecting the North and South areas of Srinagar City were stuck up due to unwarranted interferences of some lobby groups having vested interests in the area. The North-South Corridor approved in the year 1981 which envisaged construction of new roads and bridges over River Jhelum had been a non-starter. This had resulted in a major traffic bottleneck being created at Rajbagh. The KCC&I members urged for re-conversion of all the three foot-bridges to motorable bridges for proper ventilation of traffic. The Divisional Commissioner assured the members that the matter was already under active consideration of the Government and would be decided upon in the coming days.
For decongestion of the Central Business District, the KCC&I members urged for clearance of encroachments and addressing the problem of footpath vendors. The members were informed that whereas only about 2500 footpath vendors were registered with the SMC, and a majority of them were given alternate places, the position on the ground was different. All open spaces stood encroached upon by unauthorized stands and footpath vendors. The Divisional Commissioner informed the members that the Government had stopped fresh registration of foot-path vendors. He further asked the SMC representative to bring details in this regard in the next meeting.
Regarding the revival of the Carpet/Handicraft Sector, the Divisional Commissioner informed the members that with the view of effective promotion and marketing, Mr. BVR Subramanyan, Chief Secretary J&K, had directed the dovetailing of multiple economic sectors like Tourism, Handicrafts, Horticulture etc. This was aimed at boosting of multiple sectors through focused attention.
The KCC&I members raised the issue of non-availability of land for intending entrepreneurs and also procedural impediments which delayed projects by years. In this regard, special mention was made of delays due to time-consuming procedures of the Pollution Control Board. The Divisional Commissioner informed the members that the Government had considered the issue of non-availability of land for industrial use and in this regard had decided upon many measures to make land available. Amongst these measures, mention was made of the Government’s decision to go for smaller Satellite Industrial Estates of around 40 kanals, retrieval of unused plots in existing estates and shifting of security force units from Industrial Estates.
Regarding Tourism Sector, the KCC&I members informed the Divisional Commissioner about the charging of power tariff on industrial rates as earlier decided by the Government. The Divisional Commissioner informed the members that the Hon’ble Governor had been apprised about the issue and a decision in this regard was expected soon. The KCC&I members also brought the problem of renewal of Tourism Registration License due to online glitches to the attention of the Divisional Commissioner. The Divisional Commissioner directed the Dy Director Tourism to issue manual licences till the problems with online registration is sorted out.
Regarding the preservation of Dal Lake, the KCC&I members urged for making functional the Common STP’s for controlling pollution around the lake. The Divisional Commissioner informed the members that the preservation of the Dal Lake was being regularly monitored by the Hon’ble High Court. Common STP’s and other measures to check pollution were being shortly discussed in a special meeting. He invited the KCC&I members to participate in the meeting as stakeholders for getting updated on the current status and also to give their suggestions for protection of the Lake.
The problem of non-availability of Crop Insurance Scheme for Kashmir was raised by the KCC&I members. The Divisional Commissioner directed the concerned department to furnish the present status of the proposal for consideration of the Group.
The Divisional Commissioner also gave a detailed account of measures taken to prevent and manage floods and improve the water absorption capacity by augmentation of the drainage system and construction of storm drain network in the city. For beautification of the Central Business District, the KCC&I members suggested underground cabling of power lines. The Chief Engineer, PDD Mr. Hasmat Qazi said that the proposal could be considered for main business areas.
Nasir Hamid Khan thanked the Divisional Commissioner for the prompt response given for redressal of issues and also appreciated the direction of the Hon’ble Governor for creating a structured mechanism for resolution of issues relating to trade, commerce and industry.