Srinagar: Traders in Kashmir are facing “humiliation and mental agony” as their payments have been withheld by various government departments amidst the ongoing economic slump that impairs the business community in the region.
In a statement, the Secretary-general of the leading trade body, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI), Farooq Amin, has expressed his concern over the long-overdue payments in the last four years. Farooq insisted that the dues must be cleared as most traders have turned into Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) because of “strict” bank policies.
KCCI, an apex trade body in Kashmir, held a meeting of the Micro Small Enterprises Facilitation Council (MSEFC), Kashmir, which was chaired by the Director, Industries & Commerce Kashmir earlier on January 24 in the capital city.
According to the statement issued on Thursday, Farooq urged the Director industries to take up the issue with the higher authorities of all those departments who have withheld the payments of these entrepreneurs so that our industrialists don't suffer anymore.
“All these long overdue payments must be compensated with interest incurred during the period that will enable these entrepreneurs to run their businesses smoothly again,” Farooq said.
The KCCI also cautioned that the prevailing situation may discourage start-ups and upcoming entrepreneurs from carrying out business activities in the region which has been mired in hostilities for years now.
Traders and the business community in Kashmir have been reporting losses worth thousands of crores in the Kashmir region. According to KCCI, the J&K UT reported losses worth over Rs 40,000 crore (USD 5.3 billion) just after the government abrogated Article 370 in August 2019. The traders reeled under severe clampdown, followed by back-to-back lockdowns imposed in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The clampdown also led to close to half a million (497,000) job losses in the first four months after August.
Recently, the trade-in Kashmir valley suffered another hit as the government imposed a near 3-day weekend lockdown across the union territory due to a rise in COVID-19 cases since January. The fresh plea from Kashmir trader leaders comes when their counterparts in Jammu have made pleas to the government, fearing risk from the entry of corporate houses in the region.
In Kashmir, many forayed business start-ups in the past few years indicated promising opportunities in the sector. But, a pandemic, hostilities and political stalemate, among other factors, played a dampener for young entrepreneurs. Samiullah, co-founder and CEO of FastBeetle, says no help is coming from any side.
"There are so many issues, especially with no easy access to private lending available. There is no ecosystem for start-ups that could help those interested in the sector," he told NewsClick.
The KCCI spokesperson Farooq has since sought the intervention of LG Manoj Sinha and the administration to look into the matter and resolve this pending payment issue of crores of these small entrepreneurs, which according to Farooq, has led to their "humiliation and mental agony."