JAMMU, Feb In an urgent meeting convened at Chamber house today Sh. Rakesh Gupta, President JCCI and Sh. Nasir Hamid Khan Sr. Vice President KCCI discussed the chaotic situation prevailing because of the continuous closure of J&K Highways for the past few days. In the Joint Statement they said that this 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. Our 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.
Stranded passengers in Delhi, Jammu & 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 Hon’ble Governor Mr 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.
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 bounds for tourists because of the steep airfares. The airlines have been allowed to set meagre luggage limits and charge as per their sweet will on what they consider to be “excess” luggage.
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. Under the UDAN Scheme, an hour long flight costs Rs 2,500 and a 30 minute flight costs Rs 1, 200.
In view of the above, we urge for implementation of the following measures:
Ø 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;
Ø Negotiate bulk ticket purchases or chartering flights;
Ø Withdrawal of all taxes and levies on air travel to our State and Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) consumed in this regard.
Ø Set up Crisis Centres at Delhi, Jammu and Srinagar for coordinated resolution of the problems.
Ø Take steps for providing of food and accommodation for stranded travellers at Delhi, Jammu, Srinagar and other stations.
In view of the urgent nature of the above and the involvement of public interest, we would advise the Government to take immediate steps for redressal of this issue.
Also Present in the meeting were Sh. Rajesh Gupta, Sr. Vice President JCCI, Sh. Rajeev Gupta, Jr. Vice President JCCI, Sh. Manish Gupta, Secretary General JCCI, Sh. Gaurav Gupta, Secretary JCCI and Sh. Rajesh Sharma, Chairman J&K Kissan Council.