J&K will have viable economic roadmap: Drabu

Excelsior Correspondent
JAMMU, Jan 30: Minister for Finance Dr Haseeb A Drabu today said he is seeing a silver-lining of conformity emerging on J&K’s fragmented political canvass for delineating a viable economic roadmap for the State.

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“As had happened at the national level in 1991, prior to economic liberalization, a broader political consensus is emerging in Jammu and Kashmir to put in place a viable economic framework, a robust fiscal management structure and a doable budgetary policy,” Dr Drabu said while replying to the discussion on Demand for Grants of the Finance, Labour & Employment Departments.
He said the fiscal policies introduced during the past three years were aimed at bringing stabilization in JK’s economy and reduce volatility for economic revival through enhanced investments, public expenditure and widening the net of socio-economic security.
Dr Drabu said the key structural reforms like the Goods and Services Tax (GST) are establishing mechanisms for efficient fiscal management besides enhancing transparency.
“48% cumulative growth, including reimbursements by the centre, has been recorded in tax collection post implementation of GST in the state, with registered revenue growth of 25.33%”, he informed the House.
Elaborating, he said that after the implementation of GST and up to the month of December 2017, the Commercial Taxes Department registered a cumulative growth of 25.33% by collecting revenue of Rs 5466.41 crore for the period April to December 2017 against Rs 4361.57 crore for the period April to December 2016.
Responding to the concerns regarding GST, the Finance Minister said that GST regime is continuously evolving with inputs from all states to make the country ‘One Unified Common Market’.
He said that GST Council with active participation of J&K has made a large number of changes by way of reduction of rates, simplification of procedures and relaxation/extension in filing of returns to mitigate the difficulties of business fraternity.
Besides this, the State Government has also made various concessions under new tax regime aimed to boost the industrial sector and also to provide them level playing field for setting up of industries in Jammu and Kashmir which happens to be at the tail end of the country and have to bear additional costs for running this units, he added.
Dr Drabu announced that the Pay and Accounts Office Systems will be rolled out in a few weeks and asserted that PAO system will be the biggest reform instrumental in rooting out corruption from the system. Further it will reduce/eliminate public interface with the treasury staff and would bring transparency, he added.
“We are moving steadily towards digitization and will be 100% Direct Benefit Transfer compliant in the near future,” the Finance Minister informed.
FM announced that a new expenditure management system is on anvil under which separate allocations will be made for capital cities of Jammu and Srinagar and remaining districts to ensure equitable development in the State.
Addressing the concerns regarding increasing ratio of unemployed in the State, the Finance Minister informed “There is a need to formulate an employment policy that is sustainable; we are trying to work an investment based employment policy”.
Regarding regularization of the daily-rated workers, the Minister said that the government has got varied figures in each department regarding the number of such workers. “However, the final figure for regularization will be arrived at only through Aadhaar-based biometric verification of the workers provided by various Departments,” he said.
The Finance Minister informed that the government has taken a major welfare initiative for workers in the state’s unorganized sectors by providing them institutionalized socio-economic security.
Initiating the discussion on Finance Ministry grants Nawang Rigzin Jora (Congress) urged the Government to incentivize the rural postings and asked the Government to announce Special Duty Allowance for the State employees serving in Ladakh on the analogy of Central Government Employees. He also urged the Government to exempt Ladakh traders from GST regime in view of the remoteness and backwardness of the area.
National Conference MLA Devender Singh Rana sought constitution of a House Panel for suggesting measures to generate a viable eco-system on employment and employability in Jammu and Kashmir, saying this vital sector should not be mistaken as an appendage as it concerns the most important segment of youth.
“More than generating employment, the youth have to have a sense of belongingness for which we  will have to demonstrate immense degree of ownership”, Rana said.
Rana regretted that Jammu and Kashmir stands forgotten in the din of ‘shining India’, ‘rising-India’ or ‘stand up India’. In fact, an impression had been created three years ago that it will be ‘shining Jammu and Kashmir’ but unfortunately that is nowhere to be seen. The fallout of these false promises and hopes has been the youth, which find neglected and deprived. He said owning up youth  cannot be achieved by showcasing them at Lal Qila or as audience to who’s who of the present dispensation in New Delhi.
“The ownership comes from offering something concrete to the youth, who feel deprived and are dismayed”, Rana said and regretted that a viable mechanism evolved during the previous government by designing SKEPWY has been abandoned.
“The present dispensation ought to have continued this scheme with renewed nomenclature if  it had any problem with the name Sher-e-Kashmir”, he said, and in an apparent dig, he mentioned that a fashion is on these days to name the schemes after Deendayal and others. This has to happen, as most of the people from here are currently used to taking Nagpur jaunts’.
Sukhnandan Kumar (BJP) urged the Government to lay focus on the condition of the farmers and take necessary measures to improve their socio-economic condition. He also demanded to waive off of farmers’ loans taken for buying agricultural inputs including water pumps. He also appealed for the renovation of irrigation canals in Jammu.
Mubark Gul (NC) urged the Government to maintain transparency in Government offices, especially in treasuries and sought strict laws and subsequent action to eradicate corruption from the system. He also demanded hassle free financial assistance to the young aspiring entrepreneurs and removal of pay anomalies among different cadres of State Government employees. He urged the Government to implement 7th Pay Commission free from anomalies as was witnessed at the time of implementation of previous pay commission. He also urged the Government to act tough against perpetrators of child labour.
Raja Manzoor Ahmad (PDP) demanded stipend for the unemployed educated youth of the state, special incentives for the employees posted in border areas, liberal funding under NABARD and early settlement of pending SRO cases.
Usman Abdul Majeed (Congress) sought timely disbursement of scholarships to the wards of registered labourers, financial relief to the labourers killed in accidental deaths and assistance to labourers suffering from serious diseases. He called for digitization of records to ensure transparency in the system. He also called for framing of comprehensive policy for labour clause.
Ravinder Raina (BJP) hailed the Finance Minister for last year’s budget provisions and said that common populace was highly benefited by it. He also appreciated the government for clearing pending liabilities in almost all sectors including PHE. He highlighted various historic decisions of the present Government and thanked the Government for announcement of the implementation of 7th Pay Commission, timely release of Dearness Allowance to State employees.
He demanded for constituting Special Coordinating Group to monitor the developmental works in all key sectors. He asked the Government to cancel   Bar Licences running near the educational institutions and religious places in his Constituency. He demanded exemption of pulses from toll taxes. He further suggested for shifting the Khadi Bhawan near Civil Secretariat to other place and utilization of the building for the accommodation of the security personnel deployed with the legislators and other VVIPs in the said building.
Mohammad Akbar Lone (NC)  urged the government to ban sale and consumption of alcohol and take measures for stopping narcotic smuggling in the State. He said that the implementation of GST has hit JK’s economy and affected its special status. He also demanded regularization of unpaid casual labourers working in different departments and early clearance of liabilities against the work done in various sectors.
Shah Mohammad Tantray (PDP) demanded inclusion of unpaid workers and other left out workers in the regularisation policy. He also demanded a ban on sale and consumption of alcohol in the state besides incentivizing the postings in Kandi areas.
Pawan Kumar Gupta (Independent) urged the Government to incentivize the industrial growth in state and take concrete steps for ease of doing business. He asked the government to streamline the gypsum industry of the state so that more locals are benefitted by it. He also appealed government to create a Finance Commission to ensure equitable distribution of developmental funds for all the regions and districts of the state and to avoid what he said inter-province and intra-province discrimination in the allocation of funds. He further urged the government to improve the working condition for labourers and ensure their safety
Bashir Ahmad Dar (People’s Conference) demanded deferment of KAS exams being conducted by the state Public Service Commission on February 15 and 16 in view of the bad weather forecast in the Valley and exemption of court fee for death in harness cases. He also asked the government to focus on skill development to create employment opportunities for the educated unemployed youth of the State.
G M Saroori (Congress) demanded enhanced funding under District Sector, ban on alcohol in the State, the creation of Accounts Officers posts in every Panchyat, provision of allowance for educated unemployed youth and online system for registered labourer clause.
Jeevan Lal (BJP) demanded efficient tackling of unemployment challenge, enhancement of labour rates and empowerment of labour class.
Ali Mohammad Sagar (NC) urged the government to increase the Capex budget for district Srinagar and sought abrogation of SRO 202 for newly appointees terming it discriminating and unfair. He also urged the government to stop charging toll tax at Lakhanpur.
Chowdary Qamar Hussain (PDP) also sought revocation of SRO 202 terming it unfair and also appealed Government to create more job avenues in the State and also appealed for reservation to ST/SC community in J&K Bank Jobs.
Abdul Majid Larmi (NC) appealed the Government to include Personal Assistants of MLAs in the regularization list and waiving off KCC loans upto Rs 3 lakh. He also demanded the establishment of treasury at Qoimoh tehsil, Frisal and Yaripora besides urging the Government to release funds to clear liabilities of works executed by the Rural Development Department under SDRF during 2014 in Homshalibugh constituency.