Budget proposals invite mixed response from Trade and Industry

Excelsior Correspondent
JAMMU, Jan 11: Annual budget of Jammu and Kashmir State for the next financial year, which was presented today in the Legislative Assembly, by Minister for Finance Haseeb Drabu, has invited a positive response from the representatives of trade and industry even as a some others did not see much in the proposals for providing relief to the business sector and consumers.
Proposals for extension of tax incentives for 2017-18, removal of species and some other items from the negative list, making major check posts cashless and keeping Lakhanpur Toll Plaza open round the clock have been termed as welcome steps while resentment was expressed over no increase in maximum turnover limit for exemption from filing VAT return and TOT.
Rakesh Gupta, president of Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industries, has welcomed the announcement of keeping Lakhanpur Toll Plaza round the clock open, creation of Asset as well as other positive proposal like rationalization of taxes and excluding some items from negative list. “However, despite our repeated demand the cotton seed oil has not been excluded from the negative list and we convey our strong resent against the same,” he said.
According to Rahul Sahai, vice-chairman  of Confederation of India Industries (CII), Jammu Kashmir Chapter, the overall budget proposals can be termed as moderate, which have sent a positive signal to the business community even as no change in turnover limit for exemption of tax filing tax returns has disappointed them.
“Rationalization of taxes, removal of some items like spices, sheet metal etc from negative list and bringing Burger, Pizza and dietary food items in zero tax category will benefit consumers while extension of tax incentives, abolition of Government treasuries and making check posts cashless will greatly help in increasing the J&K ranking in respect of ease of doing business here,” he elaborated.
Former president of Bari Brahmana Industries Association, Annil Suri has highly appreciated the budget proposals and said that the Finance Minister has incorporated maximum of their suggestions.  “Extension of tax incentives, creation of Asset Reconstruction Company, making major check posts cashless, abolition of Government treasuries and other such positive steps would greatly help the Industry sector in Jammu and Kashmir,” he added.
Yash Paul Gupta, president of the Federation of Retailers Association, Jammu Province, said that there was nothing much in the budget proposals for the traders notwithstanding their repeated pleas for increase in maximum turnover limit for tax exemption.  “Annual turnover limits for exemption from VAT and TOT were s fixed more than a decade ago and the same have not been increased from Rs 5 lakh and Rs 20 lakh, respectively with the result that even small traders are forced to file the returns for which they have to engage persons for maintaining of all the records,” he explained and said that the Federation had demanded at least three fold increase in maximum turnover limit for exemption from filing VAT and TOT returns.
Former president of Chamber of Commerce and Industry , Y V Sharma, in his reaction to the budget proposals, said that  announcement of keeping Lakhanpur Toll Plaza round the clock operational will help in mobility of vehicles and avoid harassment in transportation of goods. “But the announcement has to be rightly put into operation,” he added.
However, on the other hand, Chairman of All Jammu Hotels and Lodges Association and Jammu Prayatan Vikas Mandal, Inderjeet Khajuria has alleged that Jammu tourism has been completely ignored in the budget proposals and there was no relief for this sector.  The budget proposals are not as per expectations of the Tourism Industry and no new projects as well as special funding for wider publicity to Jammu tourist destinations, have been proposed for attracting more visitors here,” he said.
Even as the Finance Minister announced amnesty in Passenger Tax and Token Tax for six months, keeping in view of recent Kashmir unrest, Inderjeet Sharma, Chairman of Tourist Taxi Operators Association, Jammu Province, termed the proposal as a cruel joke with the Tax and passenger vehicle operators, who had to suffer losses in lakhs of rupees because of unprecedented trouble in the Valley. “The Government has added salt to the wounds of passenger vehicle operators, who had expected suitable compensation for the losses suffered by them,” he said.
The traders in Kashmir have described the budget proposals as more political since majority of their demands have been ignored.
The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCC&I) president, Mushtaq Ahmad Wani, said majority of their demands have been ignored by the Finance Minister. He said that they had urged Finance Minister to make funds available for State emporium so that they could buy products directly from artisans but the demand was ignored. “We had also demanded incentives for artisans to boost the export of handcrafts which has gone down from Rs 1675 cr to 1000 cr since 2014. We had also demanded Artisan Credit Card facility at par with Kissan Creidt card but it has been ignored”, he explained. Wani further said that the Tourism sector has been ignored. “We had demanded soft loans for hoteliers and benefits under industry but it was ignored”, he said.
Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA) president, Muhammad Yasin Khan hailed the interest subvention scheme for the transporters. “Else, there is nothing for the trade community”, he said.
Khan said that they had put forth their demands before Finance Minister during pre-budget deliberations but unfortunately, not even a single demand has been fulfilled. “It is very unfortunate that the Finance Minister has ignored the trade community while the tourism sector has also been ignored,” he said.
Kashmir Traders Manufacturing Federation (KTMF) president, Basher Ahmad Rather termed Budget as old wines in new bottles. He said the trade community has been left at the mercy of God while the interest subvention scheme for transporters is not new as it was already announced by the Government in SRO.
He said that despite losses suffered by traders last year, the Government has failed to take appropriate step for the welfare of trade community.
The Hoteliers body representative Ghulam Muhammad Dug said that the budget is not as per their expectations. “The tourism was granted industry status but we were not given anything. We are facing brunt of power.  In industries, they have set up Rs 22 as demand charges but for us it is Rs 122. This is despite the fact that we are bulk consumers and we don’t produce anything to sell”, he said.
Meanwhile, the employees organizations have hailed the budget proposals with regard to implementation of 7th Pay Commission from next financial year and regulation policy for the daily rated workers.
Civil Secretariat Employees Coordination Committee (CCECC) has hailed the pro-employees measures announced in the Budget 2017-18. In a joint statement issued here today, CCECC leaders Ghulam Rasool Mir and Mohammad Maqbool Hussain welcomed the announcement made in the Budget regarding implementation of 7th Pay Commission Recommendations with cash-payout from April 2018.
The CCECC leaders also hailed the announcement regarding regularization of daily-rated workers and bringing all employees under the ambit of Mediclaim Insurance Scheme.
The Employees Joint Action Committee president, Abdul Qayoom Wani, has appreciated the budget proposals but at the same time, said that there is ambiguity in certain areas and it needs to be clarified. “When will policy for regularization be formed and what is the time frame for regularization needs to be clarified”, he said.
He further said that the budget is silent over the sick Public Sector Undertakings whose employees are without salary. Budget is also silent on the release of arrears between January 2016 and March 2018, he added.
Chairman of Jammu Kashmir People’s Democratic Trade Union, Suresh Sharma has hailed the budget proposals and said that for the first time, a Government has taken stakeholder employees into confidence while dealing with their issues and demands.