With J&K facing an estimated ₹42,000 crore loss in the past 13 months, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Kumar Sinha announced a relief-and-revival package of ₹1,350 crore to revive the Union Territory’s business sector on Saturday.
“I am glad to announce the package with a message that this is just a beginning. The ₹1,350-crore economic package is apart from the ₹1,400 crore package announced for J&K under the Aatma Nirbhar Abhiyan, of which ₹6,000 crore is for power sector reforms etc.,” Mr. Sinha said at a press conference in Srinagar.
Mr. Sinha, who met over 35 delegations since taking over the office, had constituted a committee headed by Advisor K.K. Sharma. Kashmir's top business body, the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI) had projected losses of around ₹42,000 crore first due to the August 5 decision last year and thereafter due to the pandemic.
“The committee has submitted its report in a time-bound manner. It has many components, which seek to help business entities in multiple ways such as provision of liquidity and other financial support. Many welfare measures such as free rations and support to the most needy were also being provided,” Mr. Sinha said.
This is the first effort since August 5, 2019, to infuse stimulus in J&K.
“The main component of the package is 5% interest subvention to all borrowers irrespective of their sizes, which would cost about ₹950 crore. The interest subvention will be available for six months in the current financial year and it will be a huge relief in the current scenario,” Mr. Sinha said.
The Lt. Governor also announced a 50% waiver of fixed charges for one year with respect to electricity and water. which would cost ₹105 crore.
Relief for transport sector
“Bus drivers, conductors, auto and taxi drivers etc. will also be assisted by providing an appropriate mechanism,” he added.
The J&K administration has decided to to provide 50% or ₹5 lakh subsidy to transporters for replacement of old buses and the insurance premium shall be borne by the government, subject to maximum of ₹5,000 per vehicle for Buses or Mini Buses, ₹3,000 for taxis or SUVs and ₹2,000 for three-wheelers.
The administration also announced assistance in installing bio-digesters in the houseboats. For around 3,100 artists, who have lost their livelihood during the pandemic, ₹1,000 will be paid per month out of the J&K Relief Fund for a period of nine months from April 1.
For the agriculture sector, district level bankers committee shall be constituted to ensure loan coverage for agriculture and allied non-farm activities under Mudra loans. Meetings will be organised every month to overcome difficulties faced by the borrowers, an official spokesman said.
The J&K Bank shall also frame a customised ‘Help Tourism’ scheme for financial assistance to persons associated with the tourism sector.
“The package is a welcome step and in the right direction. It aims to reach out to most sectors in distress,” KCCI president Sheikh Ashiq told The Hindu .
The National Conference (NC), however, termed the stimulus “a crude joke”.
“The package is too diminutive to cover the whooping ₹45,000 crore losses to the J&K economy. Out of ₹1,350 crore, a major chunk of the money has been earmarked to waive off the pending bills. This, too, is hogwash; in reality the government has only given 50% rebate on the basic electricity agreement of only industrial units and not on the actual bill, which amounts to lakhs if ruppes,” NC spokesman Imran Dar said.