Drabu assures people-friendly budget

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Minister for Finance, Dr Haseeb Drabu today said the Government would ensure a people-friendly and welfare budget 2016-17 for the J&K State.
Speaking during a series of pre-budget consultations with the representations of various business & trade organizations and other stakeholders here today, Dr Drabu  said he would try to accommodate as many viable suggestions as possible in the upcoming. He said pre-budget interactions are vital to receiving inputs, suggestions and to know the expectations of the stakeholders from the budget.
Commissioner Secretary, Finance, Navin Kumar Choudhary, Commissioner, Commercial Taxes, Baseer Ahmed Khan, Excise Commissioner, Tsering Angchok, Additional Commissioners Commercial Taxes, Jammu & Kashmir and other senior officers were present in the meetings.
The Finance Minister said if certain inputs from the stakeholders could not be incorporated due to some reason, they will be informed about the reasons in the post-budget consultations. “The idea is to reassure them that although their suggestions are valuable to the government, but some of these couldn’t be incorporated in the budget due to various unavoidable reasons,” he added.
During the meeting, various suggestions were received from representatives of Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) Jammu, Chamber of Traders Federation, Transporters Association Jammu, Hotelier Association Jammu, Federation of Industries Jammu, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Institute of Public Opinion, Intellectuals, Academicians, Tax Bar Association, Traders Association, Agriculturalists, Fruit Growers Association Jammu, Management Committee of  Press Club of Jammu, J&K Employees Joint Action Committee, J&K Secretariat Non-Gazetted Employees Association and Tourism Federation of Jammu.
The representatives of Chamber of Commerce & Industry (CCI), an apex body of  traders and industrialists, led by their  president Rakesh Gupta suggested for amnesty on account of faults due to wrong classification of various commodities for traders in case of VAT rates. They also asked for exemption of Service Tax on gym services and games zone.  CCI president said that high rate of taxation on products sold through CSD especially in case of automobiles leads to loss of revenue to the State as well as badly hits sales of local dealers as the tax in neighbouring states is much less and encourages people to buy products from outside the State. The CCI demanded that the rate of such tax be brought down.
The CCI demanded that to make the Rice Sheller industry viable, export of rice husk should be exempted from toll tax. They asked for power amnesty scheme for industrial units which are not functional and whose power connections have been disconnected.
They also requested for amnesty scheme at par with domestic power amnesty scheme issued earlier by the Government for industrial units having dispute with regard to power bills.
The Transporters Association also presented various demands before the Minister and demanded that the transport sector be declared as an industry. They also raised the issue of withdrawal of service tax on insurance and Sale Tax at Lakhanpur on fabrication of vehicular bodies. The association also demanded amnesty scheme with regard to passenger tax.
Jammu Hotel Restaurant and Bar Association while presenting their demands said the hotels and restaurants under tourism have been declared as an industry and should be allowed to avail various benefits under it including electricity tariff. They also asked for soft loans for revival of hotels. They also asked for draught beer through dispenser may be allowed to be introduced in Bars making it more viable and attractive for business. They also asked for reduction in license fee of bars in hotels and restaurants.
The Federation of Industries demanded for imposition of toll tax on import of  wheat bran from outside the State in order to save local Small Scale Industrial Units engaged in manufacture of wheat bran from incurring huge loss. They also asked for removal of items from the negative list for industrial sector in respect of edible oil, roasted ground nuts and GP sheets.
The members of Chamber of Traders Federation (Jammu), Confederation of Indian Industry (J&K Council) led by its president Yash Paul Gupta, discussed certain issues seeking concession on some items. They also laid emphasis on the infrastructure development for the welfare of the trading community. They also demanded development of existing fruit and vegetable markets besides amnesty for inadvertent defaults by the traders.
The CTF members further demanded that shawls, blankets, saffron, dry apple Chokar (wheat bran) is needed to be brought under 0 % tax regime.  They said J&K is the area where winter is severe. Blankets and shawls are the items which poorer members of the society also need to save them from intense cold conditions. Therefore, such items be clubbed under 0% tax. Dhaba Wallas, small Halwais shops, bakery shops be brought under lump-sum VAT regime. They said harassment on the pretext of undervalue at Lakhanpur should be minimized. Provision of Green Channel as agreed by the Government should be introduced. The threshold limit be increased from Rs 7.5 lakh to Rs 15 lakh keeping in view the escalation in the prices of almost all the commodities. The rate of turnover tax on second sale of the annual turnover is Rs 25 lakh and the tax of 1 % is levied on it. The limit be raised to 50 lakhs and rate of tax be reduced to 0.5 %.  They demanded reduced tax from 13.5 % to 5 % on items like- dry fruits, Aluminium foils, electric items -PVC copper wire, PVC pipes, LED lamps, tubes panels etc, whole milk powder, Desi Ghee, lamination film, PS Plates, rubber blankets used in offset printing press, Surakhsa Hose( used in LPG Chullas), file covers, CDS sales on vehicles, sweets etc.
Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), led by Sanjay Puri, former chairman, CII J&K State Council  highlighted the concerns of the Industry and recommended that the new Industrial Policy should be announced at the earliest with thrust on making Jammu & Kashmir an investment destination and also to enhance its competitiveness by leveraging its strengths and potential. He recommended round the clock functioning of Lakhanpur Toll Plaza and also mentioned that no entry tax should be levied on material handling equipment. He also highlighted the issue of counterfeit products flowing into the State from neighbouring states, damaging the local industry as also availing the incentives.
The memorandum presented also include recommendation on the sectors including Agro & Food Processing, Tourism, Biotechnology & Pharmaceuticals, skill development, IT,  innovation, research & development as also rehabilitation of sick units, promote adoption of environment friendly technologies and encouraging exports.
The Press Club Association demanded for upgradation of Press Club in Jammu. They also asked for creation of welfare fund for working journalists besides providing them medical and accidental insurance.
President Jammu and Kashmir Employees Joint Action Committee, Abdul Qayoom Wani presented various demands before the Minister including provision for regularization of all temporary employees of PSUs and Centrally sponsored schemes, financial support to sick public sector enterprises, provision of special medical insurance scheme for all State Government employees, PSUs and casual employees.
Representatives of J&K Secretariat Non-Gazetted Employees Association led by president, Ghulam Rasool Mir raised the issue of removal of pay anomalies, enhancement of move TA, TMA, MA, refreshment charges and HRA. They also asked for induction of qualifying service of State Government employees to avail full pensionary benefits.

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