The Bold Voice of J&K

September 2020 Covid-19 Revival Economic Package ‘files’ need be reopened to give it true facelift

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Daya Sagar

It was on 19th September that messages were widely circulated in the social media that the Government of UT of J&K have come with a revival package worth Rs.1350 cr for the people J&K ,more particularly in view of the Covid-19 onslaught , which also included 50% rebate / subsidy on the Electricity and Water charges for one year. As was expected the messages were well received and appreciations were showered on the LG Administration. But the actual relief was not that as was anticipated after people could lay hands on the actual Revival Package Document / Financial Package and the advertisement from the side of Government appeared in the media on 21st September. For instance as regards electricity it was Waiver off 50 % of the fixed charges of Electricity in respect of only the Industries and C o m m e r c i a l Establishments for a period of 1 year from September, 2019 to September, 2020 and not the domestic consumers. Similarly as regards relief on water charges it was waiver of water charges for a period of six (06) months wef 1st April, 2020 to all Industries and Commercial Establishments in view of lockdown due to Covid-19 Pandemic and here too the domestic consumers were not included.
In UT of J&K a very large population is dependent for survival income for services in the private sector / self trade and there has been a large reduction/ cut in the common man monthly income after Feb 2020 making even the payment of electricity and water charges look like heavy economic burden for many families . To quote many family bread earners working even in organised hotel / sector either lost their total income or were paid / are being paid only 40 to 50% of the their actual salary, for many families even the school fee of children has become ‘killing’. On going through the Introductory note of the Revival Package released by government it was found that the package was not for the general masses in view of Covid-19 only but it was in response to pending demands of business entities in J&K who have been demanding package from time to time as the business environment has been under strain for several years and the difficulties faced by the various sectors of the economy due to ongoing COVID-19 pandemic including the problems faced by them during last few years for which a committee had been constituted that heard around 35 business associations in J&K and noted 199 demands. So it could be said that the said Revival Package / Financial Package has not been pointedly for the general masses particularly under the economic stresses due to Covid-19 lockdown but that was more for Industrial / commercial establishments including the demands outside Covid-19 pressures also.
Covid-19 Relief/ Revival package aught to include (i) extending 50% relief in payment of water and electricity charges also to domestic consumers (ii) include 50% subsidy or 5.00 lakh whichever is lower to the transporters for replacement of old trucks / load carriers also like old busses (iii) assistance for insurance upto Rs. 5000 to owners of trucks also (iv) asking the insurance companies to cut the premium for private vehicles also (v) recommending to GOI for amending the motor vehicle laws as regards the lease life of a vehicle (vi) consider payment of relief to senior citizens who were/ are required to work for survival even after years of 65 years but there movements were banned under the lockdown/unlock guidelines issued from time to time (vii) and like
Inclusion of assistance for Insurance premium of commercial vehicles from government @ Rs 5000 per vehicle for Buses/Mini Buses, Rs 3000 for taxies/ sumos and Rs 2000 for three wheelers has surely been a welcome step but why the Truck Owners / Load carrier had been left out is still an unanswered question . Not only that there are many private vehicle owners who have paid the heavy insurance premiums for their two wheelers/ cars without running the vehicles out of their cut income . It is not out of place to mention here that the Insurance is mandatory and insurance companies are every next day increasing the premium on their own. Government should have asked insurance companies to extend relief to customers or like commercial vehicles government should also subsidize the private vehicle owners for insurance ( these days many individuals / families are hard pressed with EMIs of private vehicles and a large number of vehicle owners have not used their vehicles for nearly 8 to 9 months by now but have also paid on the mandatory services / oil changes to safe guard the manufacturer warranty which should have been otherwise accommodated by the companies thereby saving unnecessary cost to owner and wastage of lubricating oils ( in directly foreign exchange) .
Ofcourse there is also need to amend Motor Vehicle Act and related laws for giving atleast further lease of life to vehicles beyond the life of max 15 years that has been fixed for replacement ( ofcourse maintaining the 5 yr increase after inspection/ fitness over 15+1 yr) since the vehicles / their engines have not been used.
The financial package also mentioned subsidy on replacement of old vehicles ( although it had been already budgeted earlier in the government plans ) but so strangely the old trucks / load carriers were not included for 50% subsidy or 5.00 lakh whichever is lower to the transporters for replacement of old trucks since only old buses were included in the financial package as was released .Why the committee had not kept the old load carriers / trucks ( beyond fixed life) in the scheme has been a big question and is still a question. Had the committee worked seriously on the assignment given by LG Manoj Sinha and placed before him the real needs the LG would have surely accorded approval .
No doubt the financial package did include Relief to Bus Drivers/ cleaners/ Sumo Drivers and auto drivers estimated1,40,000 numbers who shall be registered with the labour with the building and other construction workers board and paid monthly remuneration of just Rs 1000 each in DBT mode for a period of six months, 3100 artists associated with the cultural academy who were to be paid Rs 1000 per month for a period of 09 months and 19914 identified Shikara/House Boat owners/Tourist Guides/ Pithuwala/ Dandiwalas/Sledge Walas/Pony/Camel Riders were to be paid Rs 1000 per month for nine months but there have been / are many other categories who lost income due to Lockdowns in addition to some noted in the package worth Rs.1000 per month relief for 6 to 9 months.
Immediately on the release of the Govt Advertisement ( Unprecedented Rs.1350 Cr Package for Business Revival and Growth ) on 21 September 2020 which was introduced in political circles as common man financial package in terms of the circumstances forced by Covid-19 suggestions and submissions were made to the Government of UT of J&K also focussing on the common man issues under Covid -19 stresseswhich had not been in the terms of reference of the earlier “committee” which drafted the proposals for approval by LG/ UTAC but it appears no additions / considerations have been made so far. Will the UT administration open the files again keeping in view that in the earlier package even provisions like 80% subsidy for installation of the biodigesters in the Houseboat was kept though welcome provision ) was not immediately related to Covid-19 pandemic relief requirements..
(Daya Sagar Sr Journalist / Analyst Jammu & Kashmir Affairs [email protected] 9419796096)

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