JAMMU, Feb 11: President Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) and Nasir Hamid Khan, senior vice president KCCI in a joint meeting here today discussed the chaotic situation prevailing because of the continuous closure of J&K Highways for the past few days.
In a joint statement after meeting, they said that blockade has adversely affected the population causing widespread disruptions in schedules and thrown normal life out of gear. The supply of essential commodities including medicines has also been adversely affected. Tourism sector has suffered heavy losses. With trucks stranded for weeks on the highway, transportation of goods and supplies to and from the Valley has also become a problem.
They said the stranded passengers in Delhi, Jammu and Srinagar are left with no alternative but to pay exorbitant rates for air- travel to get back home. Although the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry had, among other suggestions, requested Governor Satya Pal Malik, to intervene and arrange additional flights and sorties, the Government has so far been unable to control the predatory pricing policy.
The airlines while operating additional flights have been ruthless with regard to the airfare and luggage charges. Other policies like cancellation charges and guidelines for making available flights next day in case of cancellation of flights due to bad weather also needs to be overhauled.
They said the faith shown by the Government by agreeing to no regulation of airfares has been sufficiently abused. The policy had resulted in blatant exploitation of the public including patients, students and the business community. The sector has become out of bound for tourists because of the steep airfares.
The Government instead of protecting the consumers has become a beneficiary of this exploitation by having a substantial GST share in the ticket cost and heavy taxation of the Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF). While doing this, the Government has turned a blind eye towards the repeated recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee in 2015 and 2018 asking for the need of capping of airfares. The UDAN scheme of the Civil Aviation Ministry also recommended measures for increasing regional connectivity including distance based pricing.
The Joint Chambers have demanded that the Government should invoke the Essential Services Act to control airfares in line with the Civil Aviation distance based pricing policy of capping fares to Rs 2500 for hour long flights and Rs 1200 for 30 minute flights, negotiate bulk ticket purchases or chartering flights, withdrawal of all taxes and levies on air travel to our State and ATF consumed in this regard, set up crisis centres at Delhi, Jammu and Srinagar for coordinated resolution of the problems, take steps for providing of food and accommodation for stranded passengers at Delhi, Jammu, Srinagar and other stations.
Other office bearers also attended the joint meeting.