BUDGET LEAVES J&K BEREFT, PDP FACES FLAK
SRINAGAR: The relations between the Peoples Democratic Party and the BJP are likely to come under further strain due to the lack of any major announcement for Jammu and Kashmir in the union budget which has also left the business community seething in anger.
According to the party insiders, the PDP leadership was expecting the BJP to break the ice by setting aside some budgetary allocation for the J&K which would have enabled the state to buy back two key power projects presently under the control of Centre-owned NHPC.
"I would not be honest if I say that we (PDP) are not disappointed. There were expectations of some JK-specific measures in the budget, which hasn't happened. I don't know what is happening behind the scenes but this will further strain our relations (with the BJP)," a senior PDP leader, who didn't want to be named, said.
The two parties have been holding back channel negotiations with two senior leaders - Dr Haseeb Drabu and Dr Amitabh Mattoo, who are camping in the national capital and meeting senior BJP leaders to break the ice over government formation in J&K which slipped under governor's rule on January 8, a day after the demise of chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.
Former chief minister and National Conference president Dr Farooq Abdullah said he was “very disappointed” that the Centre hasn't announced any special allocations for Jammu and Kashmir.
“It is very disappointing that the Union Finance minister did not announce any special allocation for the state and especially for Kashmir. People had expected that the Centre will make some announcements for the state. We are lagging behind economically,” Abdullah said.
His party National Conference trained guns at the PDP president Mehbooba Mufti over the "shocking omission" of relief package for J&K in the union budget. In a statement, the party said the omission has shown that PDP was in an alliance with the BJP for its "own partisan interests and not for the political or economic interests” of J&K.
“PDP leaders had promised there would be something concrete for J&K in the Union Budget. Leave alone the possibility of something ‘special’ for the state, there is a complete lack of mention of the state and its pressing needs in the aftermath of the devastating floods of 2014 which has completely shattered the state’s tourism and manufacturing industry,” an NC spokesman said.
Meanwhile, the business community in Kashmir Valley also expressed disappointment with the union budget. Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry president, Mushtaq Ahmad Wani, said the traders had hoped that the Government of India will announce tax holiday for Kashmir.
“The budget is a disappointment for the state and particularly for Kashmir. We were demanding tax holiday for Kashmir because of the flood in 2014 affected our trade to a huge extent. But it was not announced. We were expected special incentives for handicrafts because our export in handicrafts declined after flood. It too was not announced,” Wani said.
Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Association, Mohammad Yasin Khan said the traders in the Valley had expected that the Government of India will announce rebate in tax for the state which have been severely affected by flood in 2014. “The BJP government in New Delhi was aware of the magnitude of the devastation wrought by the 2014 flood. Despite that the budget appears hollow for us,” Khan said.
He said that due to the coming fruit season, the traders had hoped that the central government would announce in the budget some reduction in fares for the transporters. “Reduction in fares would facilitate the transport of Kashmiri fruits to different fruit markets. It would surely have given fillip to our trade and the fruit industry,” he said.
Showkat Choudhary, Kashmir Economic Alliance Chairman, said the budget will bring more miseries to the people of the state. “The GoI has increased the defense budget which will obviously impact Kashmiri people as the Centre government will procure new weapons to use against the people here,” Choudhary said.
Industry leader and social activist, Shakeel Qalander, termed the budget as “great disappointment” for the state. “The budget has proved that the GoI treats Kashmir with a discriminatory approach. People affected by flood has expected some relief to be announced but the GoI ignored them,” he said.