Srinagar/June,30: The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Tuesday discussed with all stakeholders the draft policy/guidelines for houseboats in Dal and Nigeen lakes in Srinagar. The meeting was chaired by Nasir Hamid Khan, Senior Vice President, KCC&I. On behalf of the stakeholders Manzoor Ahmad Pakhtoon, Shamim Ahmad Shah, Yaseen Ahmad Tuman, Mohasin Fayaz Bhat, Mohammad Akram Siah, G.R. Siah, Ab. Majeed Khankashi, Abdul Rashid Kaloo and Showkat Ahmad Pakhtoon attended the meeting.
The representatives of the houseboat owners expressed concern at the framing of the final draft of the policy without any discussions with the stakeholders who would be directly impacted by the implementation of the Policy. Whereas the policy has been circulated among various government departments and also the Committee of experts constituted by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, the basic stakeholders have been denied an opportunity to incorporate their genuine concerns in the policy so far. It would have been highly appreciated if the Committee of Experts constituted by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court would have included representatives of various sections of the stakeholders whose lives and livelihood are dependent on the lakes. Now when final draft has been notified in public domain, the stakeholders have also been asked give their views and comments which have to be consistent with the directions of the Hon’ble High Court and ecological requirements of the lake, within a period of ten days.
As a consequence, the draft policy has many clauses which adversely effect the hassle free registration and operation of the houseboats. Although in the aims and objectives of the policy the Government declares that it is to provide a sustainable source of living for the houseboat owners/shikara wallas, a cursory perusal of the draft policy reveals otherwise. Harsh and unworkable conditions are required to be fulfilled for the houseboats to be eligible for registration and operation. A plethora of No objection certificates have been prescribed for registration/operation and disproportionate penalties have been suggested. Kashmir was presently undergoing the 11th month of a lockdown the brunt of which was borne by the tourism industry. The financial and job losses have crippled the fragile sector. The introduction of the policy at a time when the Government itself has extended a helping hand to the sector by announcement of a three month intervention of Rs. 1,000/- a month for Houseboat owners and Shikara wallas has caused widespread panic and consternation among the houseboat owners. The stakeholders stated that at a time when most of the population was finding it difficult to earn a livelihood and arrange food for their families the reason for rushing through the Houseboat policy was hard to comprehend.
Nasir Hamid Khan assured the participants that their concerns would be effectively advocated before the concerned authorities and the KCC&I would seek revision of the ill-advised conditions of the policy. A detailed response urging for deletion of the objectionable clauses and other specific amendments to the Draft Policy would be communicated to the concerned authorities in due time.