Kashmir Inc Says ‘Under Attack’; Seeks Fair Probe

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SRINAGAR: The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry today expressed deep concern at what it described as “avertable losses” being suffered by the business community of Kashmir.

“One after the other, various sectors of our community are facing an onslaught and several establishments have been either put out of business, are on the verge of closure or our credible brands are in the process of being defamed. And there is no end in sight”, a KCC&I statement said.

Being the apex organisation formed with the objective of watching over and protecting the trade, commerce and industry of Kashmir and of the people connected with such activities, the KCC&I said it was well aware of the difficulties that the business community faces while setting up shop in this region. 

“The private sector has to face various challenges. Starting with the vagaries of nature due to which even the Government shifts the capital but the business establishments having no such choice are left to fend for themselves”, the statement read. 

“Road connectivity, lack of infrastructure, heavy taxation policies are some of the other problems faced by our community. A community which prides itself for contributing heavily towards the state exchequer the yields are hardly worth mentioning. We are the community that pays around 5,000 crore per year in taxes and penalties to only one department of the Government.  A three time increase in tax collection from 2009. Having regard to the statistics provided by the Power Development Department, the situation on ground regarding power supply is worsening day by day although the Department are claiming by providing figures that supply has improved. People are being forced to come to the streets in protest”, it further said.

While welcoming the Cabinet decision dated 18th of November, 2013 for setting up of common Sewage Treatment Plants (STP’s) for the capital cities of Srinagar and Jammu KCC&I has  urged the Government to execute the project under a fast track scheme so that the common STP’s are in place before the start of the next tourist season in April. 

The Government needs to appreciate the losses caused to our members from the hotel industry who had to face a lot of harassment and losses during peak tourist season, it said adding, 20 hotels in Gulmarg were closed down on the 27th of September, 90 hotels in Pahalgam were closed down on the 10th of October and 108 hotels in Srinagar were closed on the 19th of November, 2013. 

“We would also urge the Government to extend this policy to other major tourist spots like Pahalgam,  Gulmarg, Sonamarg and Katra so that there is no sense of discrimination amongst members belonging to this industry. The hotel industry would welcome the imposition of maintenance charges and fees as mutually determined in order to facilitate a comprehensive environmental protection measure”. 

KCC&I said it was deeply disturbed because of the vandalisation of Kashmir’s forests and fragile ecology and has urged the Government and the court to “act for the preservation of the environment by putting in place similar sewage treatment measures for the massive security setup present everywhere in Kashmir”. 

“The troops-to-civilian ratio is indubitably amongst the highest in the world and any environmental protection measure would be in effect only cosmetic unless the various army,  police and other central forces installations are included for strict compliance with the environmental laws especially with regard to the sewage treatment”, the statement said. 

“Another important area would be the pilgrim tourists visiting the holy shrines of Amarnath and Vaishno Devi. As per news reports, the number of pilgrims visiting Vaishno Devi Shrine is expected to be around 1crore 27 lakhs which equals the total population of the State of Jammu & Kashmir as per the 2011 census. Having regard to such a huge number of pilgrims passing through Katra town in addition to the local population, we urge the Government to immediately intervene for installation of a common Sewage Treatment Plant. However, since the pilgrims visiting the Amarnath Shrine are mostly mobile, and under the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court the mobile toilets are already in place but whether any measure for properly treating the sewage is in place, we would urge the Government to form a Joint Committee to visit and check whether the sewage is treated as per the environmental laws”, the release said. 

KCC&I welcomed the government decision to pass an ordinance to put moratorium on demolition of structures on the pattern of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Bill 2006. However, this being a temporary provision, KCC&I also urged the government to put in place a final policy regarding the building laws which integrates the need of growth and development with preservation and planning.

“Whereas the KCC&I has the utmost regard for the compliance of Food Safety Laws and we view the allegations of adulteration to be of a very grave and serious nature having far reaching consequences for the people but at the same time we would reiterate that the industry should also have a fair chance to present their case”, the release said in reference to the recent reports about three leading brands involved in adulteration of their products.

“The onslaught started by leaking of some test reports has severely damaged the reputation of some important members of our industry and they have a right to be heard. Condemnation without being given a chance to prove their stand is in our opinion against the laws of natural justice and we urge the authorities to give a fair chance for truth to prevail. Conflicting test reports, procedural lapses in taking samples and the inaction of the Government for months together indicate a non seriousness which does not augur well for our industry. We would demand strictest  action  against anybody, irrespective of how high and mighty they maybe, if found indulging in any form of adulteration which puts human lives at risk but at the same time the law of the land which provides the right of defense to everyone has to be followed and respected.  Carmoisine (E122) and Tartrazine (E102) are the most widely used food colors and are used in various products like Breakfast Cereals, Pickles, Jams, Chocolates, Cold Drinks , Ice Creams, Flavored Milk, Candies, Cough Drops, Jellies and Baked Products etc. We are enclosing detailed reports including scientific opinion of the European Food Safety Authority on both these ingredients”, KCC&I Statement said. 

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