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Thursday, November 17, 2016

RBI turns down relief to businesses as J&K Govt fails to declare Kashmir ‘riot-hit’ in 2016 turbulence

Did BJP botch up PDP’s plan to ‘extort’ concessions for the Valley traders who supported Hurriyat’s shutdown call for 4 months?

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Nov 16: Amid speculations of differences between the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) over lending some assistance to the turbulence-hit Kashmiri traders and industrialists, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has rejected the J&K State Level Bankers Committee’s request with the argument that the Mehbooba Mufti government had failed to declare any district or area of the State as “affected by riots or disturbances”.

Well-placed sources in New Delhi revealed to STATE TIMES that the then Chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Bank Ltd (JKB), Mushtaq Ahmad, in his capacity as Convenor of J&K SLBC had written a letter to RBI on October 1, 2016, seeking restructuring and resettlement of the loan liquidations in favour of the Kashmir-based businesses on account of the summer turbulence that crippled life and froze entire business activity for over three months.

The RBI examined the proposal for over a month as the new Chairman of JKB and Convener of SLBC, Parvez Ahmad, too pursued the same assiduously, claiming that the State economy had suffered losses worth over Rs 15,000 crores due to the turbulence that was triggered off by the Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani’s killing in an encounter on July 8. Finally the proposal was categorically rejected on the plea that the coalition government had not declared any district as riot-affected.

In his letter No: 342/03.01.17/2016-17 dated November 15, 2016, RBI’s General Manager, S.C. Sharma, wrote to the new Convener of J&K SLBC and Chairman JKB Parvez Ahmad, that “in terms of our Master Directions on Natural Calamities 2016 dated July 01, 2016, only genuine persons duly identified by the state administration as having been affected by the riots/disturbances are provided assistance”.

“In light of our circular, it is imperative that the areas/people affected are identified to consider for the special dispensation. As the district collector/ state government has not yet declared any area as affected by riots or disturbances, the special dispensation required by J&K Bank (SLBC convenor, J&K State) does not fall under our circular”, the RBI GM communicated to Chairman JKB.

Asked why the J&K Government had not declared any district or entire Kashmir valley as “affected by riots and disturbances”, that could have facilitated the RBI to acquiesce into the JKB proposal, Commissioner-Secretary Finance Navin Choudhary claimed that he had no knowledge of the proposal having been turned down. “As of now, concessions are accorded for natural calamities. Admittedly, it’s a man-made disaster but a matter of debate. The State Government as well as the businesses in Kashmir have been badly affected due to the turmoil. We have lost 50% of the revenue. But let’s wait for the RBI decision”, Mr Choudhary told STATE TIMES on telephone.

Did the State Government have any proposal to declare any district or the entire Kashmir valley as affected by the riots and disturbances? “I am not aware of it. The State Home Department may have such knowledge”, Mr Choudhary asserted.

Principal Secretary Home, R.K. Goyal, said that there was “absolutely no proposal” under the government’s consideration to declare any district or the entire Kashmir valley as affected by riots and disturbances.

Additional Secretary in Chief Minister’s Secretariat and Director of Information, Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, too asserted that “to the best of my knowledge” there was no proposal under consideration to declare Kashmir as affected by riots and disturbances. “Yesterday only there was a threadbare discussion in a high level official meeting on the losses and damages suffered by the people and the government. But, nothing like notifying any area as riot-affected surfaced in the deliberations”, Dr Choudhary said.

Commissioner-Secretary Finance Navin Choudhary, nevertheless, asserted that the State Government had decided to provide some relief to the traders and businesspersons who would come forward for resettlement of their tax payment subject to the condition that they deposit the first of the six fixed instalments within 30 days. He said that Finance Department had notified SROs 360, 361 and 362 dated November 13, 2016, for the benefit of the defaulter traders who had failed to pay their sales and other taxes over the years. “We are not charging any interest or penalties from them”, he added.

Bureaucratic and political sources, however, insisted that some leaders and Ministers of the PDP were strongly in favour of obtaining some relief, on the pattern of the floods of September 2014, for the Valley-based traders and entrepreneurs while pointing out that the “miscreants” had burned down factories and felled orchards and all the shops and transport industry had been grounded to a halt for four months. However, their counterparts in the BJP opposed the idea with the argument that Kashmir’s traders had publicly supported the Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s shutdown call and offered to give “sacrifices” for achieving Azadi.

Kashmir’s traders and businesspersons, according to the BJP Ministers and leaders, did not deserve any amnesty or relief from the banks or the government.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

Monday, November 14, 2016

Big depositors under scanner as Rs 5,000 crore dumped in all bank branches in J&K

60% deposits in Jammu, 40% in Kashmir in the last four days

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Nov 13: Different agencies of the Government of India as well as the Government of Jammu and Kashmir have put all the big depositors under their scanner even as the demonetised Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes worth Rs 5,000 crore have been deposited in the branches of different banks operating in Jammu and Kashmir in the last four days.

Officials of the Corporate Communication Department of the Jammu and Kashmir Bank pleaded that the guidelines from the Centre had barred all individual banks to share respective figures with media. Besides, compilation of the entire statistics on regional and State basis was “not possible for the moment” as it was a massive and hectic procedure changing every second. They said that some statistics could be compiled and the system streamlined in the next days, with the advantage of the first bank holiday on Monday.

Well-placed sources in the state Finance Department, however, claimed that total volume of the deposits in different branches of all the banks operating in Jammu and Kashmir was “around Rs 5,000 crore” since morning of November 10 to 1800 hours on November 13. Of this, around Rs 2,500 crore has been deposited in different branches of the Jammu & Kashmir Bank operating in the State. According to these knowledgeable sources, 60% of the deposits have been reported in Jammu division and 40% in Kashmir division.

Sources said that aggregate deposits worth Rs 2,800 crore had landed in all branches of the Jammu and Kashmir Bank in the entire country on the first two days of the business on November 10 and 11.

Chairman J&K Bank, Pervez Ahmad, too did not respond to the calls and text messages delivered on his mobile phone from this newspaper. While as Senior President Business, S.K. Bhat, pleaded that he was on a tour outside the State and “not in a position to share the details”, Vice President in Strategy and Business Development Division, Tabbasum Nazir, insisted that the statistics could be made available only by her bank’s Corporate Communication Department.

Commissioner-Secretary Finance, Naveen Choudhary, told STATE TIMES that it was none of the State Government’s business to monitor deposits of the demonetised currency tenders. He, however, asserted that the Union Government’s decision had come as a boon to the J&K Bank as many of the defaulters were coming forward to liquidate their loans and revive their bad loan accounts.

Officials holding key positions in Finance and Police departments, nevertheless, revealed that a host of agencies from the State and the Central governments were keeping a vigil on the big depositors to ascertain the quantum of the parallel economy in the militancy-ravaged State. Sleuths from Intelligence Bureau, Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax Department to the State Police’s CID and CIK wings are understood to have planted their men in different bank branches besides activating their sources and contacts in the sections tabulating information on day-to-day basis in different banks.

“As of now nothing significant has been detected, though many of the people who have rarely visited a bank are coming forward with sizeable deposits. We have learned that some people have roped in scores of their acquaintances who deposit cash below Rs 2,50,000 each in their accounts to escape the IT eye. Some people, including religious and political leaders, are managing deposits in the bank accounts of political parties, religious bodies, charitable trusts and NGOs claiming the same as donations. It will take us time to learn about exact source of such deposits”, said an official.

According to him, property dealers, tour and travel operators, hoteliers, fast food businesses, marriage hall operators besides lawyers, architects and doctors in private practice, who normally hide their income and deposit money in different benami ventures, could be the worst sufferers.

Meanwhile, like all other States, most of the ATMs in Jammu and Kashmir turned dry several time a day in the last four days as the cash calibrated into the machines in denomination of Rs 100 notes exhausted within hours. Two ATMs of the State Bank of India in Jawahar Nagar Chowk, one located inside the bank building, were found cashless several times on Saturday. However, cash was available in both the ATMs of the J&K Bank in Jawahar Nagar and Lalmandi without break.

Government of India tonight enhanced the limit of the daily withdrawals from ATMs from Rs 2,000 to Rs 2,500 each account holder. Limit of withdrawal against cheque or withdrawal slip was enhanced from Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,000 a day and from Rs 20,000 to Rs 24,000 a week while as the limit of exchanging the demonetised notes was hiked from Rs 4,000 to Rs 4,500 a day. This will be operational till November 18.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]