Ground Report, Srinagar | At least 21 Kashmir-based traders bodies, in full-page advertisements published in local dailies in Kashmir with a bold heading: “We owe you money, not respect and honour” accused the banks of harassment and persecution of the families of the borrowers in the name of asset possession, first such allegations since J&K was reduced to a Union Territory.
“After 2019, the business community is completely devastated and exhausted. Our survival is under threat. It’s a humble submission to banks that they should stop calling us defaulters. Many are circumstantial and not wilful defaulters,” reads the joint statement.
Among others that issued the statement, included Kashmir’s top trading bodies such as the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI), the Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation, Kashmir Economic Alliance, the Federation Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Association, the J&K Private School Coordination Committee, the Shopian Fruit Mandi Association, the Kashmir Gold Association etc.
J&K Bank is publishing the possession notice in the newspapers and then it is followed by intimidation and coercion from the recovery teams. The bank is not ready for settlement and through newspapers we have asked banks to stop harassment. At present situation, where businessmen need support, they are resorting to such activities which are very abnormal,” he said. “Such activities from banks are creating panic among the businessmen.
“We don’t deserve to be named and shamed for owing banks the money they invested with us…we and our family don’t deserve to be harassed, persecuted and troubled in the name of asset possession. Dear banks, be humble and compassionate while making recoveries,” the statement from 21 business bodies which was published in local dailies said.
The statement said the government has not done anything for them. “At times, different governments have promised measures…but until this day we have not seen a ray of hope which would have been made this community to sleep at ease…,” it said.We and our families don’t deserve to be harassed, persecuted and troubled. Dear banks, be humble and compassionate while making recoveries,” the statement said.
Several sectors that drives the J&K economy — tourism, horticulture, IT-related units and handicrafts — witnessed a major slump after the Centre ended J&K’s special status on August 5 last year. Besides the unprecedented security measures, the non- availability of the Internet further dented economy.
“Since 2008, businesses in Kashmir suffered heavy losses. It was followed by the 2014 floods, 2016 unrest and the 2019 clampdown. The RBI has allowed the banks to go for restructuring and rehabilitation of stress accounts to save them from turning into non performing assets. This turned out to be half-hearted acknowledgement. After 2019, business community is completely devastated,” it said.
The KCCI already claimed that J&K suffered losses to the tune of ₹17,878 crore, with the agriculture sector topping the list at ₹2,827 crore followed by tourism at ₹2,615 crore after the Centre’s move.