Srinagar: Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Saturday described the policy adopted by the Geology and Mining Department with regard to allotment of mining and extraction contracts as alarming and against public interest.
“The lack of protective mechanisms in the policy has reportedly deprived thousands of families of their livelihood and exposed consumers to exploitation by a mining syndicate,” a spokesman of the traders’ body said.
The recent bidding for mineral blocks in Kashmir province clearly indicates that local stakeholders have been sidelined, the spokesman said.
“Use of financial musle power has totally wiped them out in Srinagar and reports from other districts are equally discouraging. The auction bid for 15 blocks in Pulwama has jumped from the previous Rs 2 Crores to a whopping Rs 17.82 Crores,” the spokesman said, adding, “ There is no way that the local contractors can compete and thus disadvantaged. While the Government may see the increase in who have to pay the price.”
Instead of money flowing into the local economy there is all likelihood of a reverse outflow, the spokesman said.
“The introduction of heavy machinery in the extraction process would leave the local sand diggers jobless and the environmental costs are also worrying,” the spokesman said, adding, “A non-local syndicate appears to have altogether muscled out local stakeholders and is now indulging in aggressive and unfair trade practices. The cost of sand has been more than doubled.”
With the constitutional changes introduced post August 2019, the spokesman said, the Government was expected to be fully alert with regard to protection of local economic interests from “predacious groups.”
He said the first claim on local resources rightfully belongs to the natives of Kashmir and the Government of Jammu and Kashmir—whatever constitutional structure it may acquire– is duty bound to protect the legitimate entitlement of people of Jammu and Kashmir. “Utmost caution needs to be exercised in formulation of economic policies which may otherwise appear to dilute their claims or prove detrimental to the interests of people connected with trade, commerce and industry.”
The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, he said, urges for urgent review of the mining and extraction policy to address local interests and incorporate protective clauses for stakeholders and consumers.
“The district wise share of local stakeholders needs to reserved to the extent of nothing less than 80 percent and market prices of materials need to be capped. It is further urged that the engagement of local labour for sand digging be made mandatory and use of heavy machinery restricted,” he said, adding, “Till the time a revised policy is announced in consultation with stakeholders, the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry appeals to Mr. G C Murmu, Lt Governor, Jammu and Kashmir to direct keeping the implementation of the new mining or extraction policy in abeyance.”
As Kashmir enters the eleventh month of disruption, he said huge losses have been suffered by economy and lakhs of jobs were lost. “Most economic sectors continue to reel under unprecedented stress and financial instability,” he said, adding, “There is urgent need for providing all possible support in the shape of tangible and concrete interventions for economic revival.” The introduction of policies which aggravate the stress and adversely impact the livelihood of people at this time of crisis would go against the commitment of development and upliftment of the living conditions of the people, the spokesman added.