Abrar A. Mattoo
SRINAGAR, June 22: September last year, Justice Tashi Rabstan of Jammu and Kashmir High Court quashed the appeal of the stamp-vendors who were opposing the implementation of E-stamping in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. His order, which purported the overnight transition of manual Stamping to E-stamping, reduced the commission of the stamp vendors by nearly 3000 per cent.
Due to this reduction in profit and subsequent economic bashing by covid-19, nearly twenty thousand families are on a verge of starvation in Jammu and Kashmir.
Earlier, when manual stamping was in place, the stamp vendors were getting a sweet deal of 4.5 per cent on the stamp sales, but now, with the advent of E-stamping, their commission has been reduced to 0.15 per cent. Surprisingly, SCHIL (Stock Holding Corporation of India Limited) that acts as a custodian and depository agency, gets 0.65 per cent commission from the sale of E-stamps — nearly, four times more than stamp-vendors.
“Earlier, I used to earn sufficient to give my family a comfortably normal livelihood, but now, my earnings don’t even suffice the cost of their meals,” lamented Parwaiz Ahmad, a stamp-vendor at Srinagar’s lower court while speaking to Kashmir Despatch.
The cost of switching to E-stamping has also pilfered the purses of many stamp vendors. The cost of establishing an E-stamping unit incurs an expenditure of 20,000 on average — then, there are the operational expenses. Bills on the internet, electricity, and office spaces are causing dents into the profits of stamp vendors.
Earlier, the stamp vendors used to occupy places at court complexes, but due to the complex nature of the E-stamping, those free spaces have largely shrunk.
“E-stamping indeed reduces the leakage of government funds, but the policy-makers have not taken the other aspects of this transition into account. The costs of establishing and operating an E-stamping unit are far more tedious than one would expect. Additionally, those among us who were not tech-savvy, they had to leave the profession altogether,” added Yashpal Sharma, another stamp-vendor.
According to a list prepared by Srinagar Vendors Association, the average mean age of the registered stamp-vendors is 45-50 years, and it is by exploiting all the career options that they had chosen the stamp-vending profession many years ago when the profession was luring and full of monetary perks.
Furthermore, Chartered accountants, post-masters, lawyers, and banks are also eligible to issue the stamp certificates, which further reduces the professional monopoly of the stamp-vendors in nearly 21 states and union territories of the Indian Union where the E-stamping has been established.
“Some of us have been in the profession for more than three to four decades, how can we switch to other professional opportunities? We invoke the authorities to shun apathy, and increase the percentage of commission on E-stamps to the stamp vendors. Also, rather than providing more earning opportunities to banks and people like lawyers and chartered accountants (who are already earning their livelihood from their respective professions) we demand that stamping should be reserved as a monopoly for registered stamp-vendors. This action would firstly create more jobs because more youth would be lured to the profession, and secondly, it would give us a fair respite from the troubles that we been suffering since the switch to E-stamping,” said Younis Ahmad, Vice-President Srinagar Stamp-vendors Association, while talking to Kashmir Despatch.