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World Bank should assess flood damages: traders' body

Kashmir's umbrella group of business community, State Economic Reconstruction Forum (SERF), on Monday questioned the cabinet decision to seek only rs 44,000 crore as funds for the flood-ravaged Jammu and Kashmir against estimated losses of rs1 lakh crore. It demanded assessment of damages through the World Bank.

india Updated: Oct 14, 2014 17:51 IST
Peerzada Ashiq

Kashmir's umbrella group of business community, State Economic Reconstruction Forum (SERF), on Monday questioned the cabinet decision to seek only rs 44,000 crore as funds for the flood-ravaged Jammu and Kashmir against estimated losses of rs1 lakh crore. It demanded assessment of damages through the World Bank.

"We fail to understand that the chief secretary (Iqbal Khanday) himself referred to `100,000 crore losses. Empirical studies show the consequential and secondary losses of a disaster to be 2.5 times the amount of the primary losses. How the government plans to account for such a shortfall is a riddle only they can elaborate on," said SERF spokesman GM Dug, who is also president of the Kashmir Hoteliers and Restaurant Owners Federation.

The cabinet on Friday demanded rs 44,000 crore from the Centre to meet the losses incurred by floods of September 6-7.

The SERF, which represents key business groups like Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Kashmir Economic Alliance, Federation of Commerce and Industries Kashmir (FCIK), is the sole body holding parleys with the government over the losses.

"It seems the state government has only asked for relief of rs44,000. We demand that the rest amount should be allowed to come through the international bodies like Asian Development Bank and World Bank," said Muhammad Ashraf Mir, president, FCIK.

"The losses are huge. If New Delhi is not able to meet the demand it should allow foreign aid," he added.

Dug said the assessment of all losses in all sectors of retail, wholesale, horticulture, agriculture, tourism, exports, industries, transport, housing, public infrastructure should be done by the state government in close collaboration with the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank through the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) as was done in the case of Uttarakand.

The SERF alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi failed to release promised interim relief amount of `1200 crore because "Kashmir is a conflict zone."

Jammu and Kashmir business community claims to perform `40,000 crore trade annually. Kashmir regions accounts for `28,000 crore, claimed the SERF spokesman. "Kashmir business community has standing bank loans to the tune of `17,000 crore. We fear that the Centre package may contain more loans only, which will overburden the trading community here," he claimed.

The SERF demanded provision of `10 lakh as ex gratia for damaged houses and businesses. "The rest be given on loans by the Centre through banks financed by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank," demanded the body.

It also asked the Centre to declare Srinagar one of the first SMART cities in the country. "This would make Srinagar eligible for huge funding earmarked for this scheme. The Central government should include our J&K for inclusion in the National Optical Fibre Network," it said.

The SERF has already demanded a 10-year income tax exemption for the Kashmir Valley in its memorandum to the government.

"Although the banking guidelines give banks a blueprint to be immediately implemented in case of a disaster, our banks have intentionally failed to provide any such measure. Instead, they have resorted to unfair practices and profited from the miseries of the people. They have delayed implementation of the RBI guidelines in order to charge interest for the month of September, 2014. They have targeted the victims of the floods by encouraging adhoc limits and overdrafts even during this period," it alleged.