Sidelining local business people

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It is for the first time ever that non-local companies have bagged a majority of contracts for the extraction of minerals from the rivers and other water bodies of Kashmir. As the bidding processes has been completed in seven of the ten districts in Kashmir, the lions share has gone to the non-local bidders. More than 200 mineral blocks in Jhelum and its tributaries across the Valley were opened for mining of sand, boulders, gravel and other river bed material in December last. Earlier, the rights for extraction of the minerals were exclusively reserved for local contractors as most of these contractors and sand diggers associated with the extraction live on the banks of river Jhelum. However, after the revocation of Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir state into two union territories, these mineral blocks have now been opened for contractors from across the country. Though the UT administration is thrilled that its revenue from extraction this year would be much higher than the previous years, it is missing the very important issue – the economic costs it will have for the local people associated with the business.

It is for the first time that these blocks have gone to non locals and it has become a big cause of worry for local businessmen. This all happened due to the minimal internet connectivity in Kashmir. As the bidding process was held online, many local businessmen were not in a position to take part in the process as they had no access to high-speed internet connectivity. It may be recalled here that though, in the aftermath of August 5, 2019, mobile internet was restored in Kashmir it has been reduced to minimal speed of 2G. Though people have been running from pillar to post including courts for restoration of high speed 4 G connectivity, the Lt. Governor administration, on pretext of one or the other reason, has been delaying the restoration.

It is not the question of extracting sand from rivers only, the bidding process has become a bigger cause of worry for local businessmen as they see a well thought-out design behind it. If high speed internet is not restored forthwith, the local business people are apprehensive that they will never get a chance to compete for getting any contract allotted in the future. Everyone is challenging government’s wisdom of holding the bidding online knowing well that the process will leave majority of the local stakeholders out of the process. It is therefore necessary that the UT administration should restore the high speed internet in Kashmir before indulging in any such misadventures in the future.

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