A day after Labour and Employment Department issued a notification seeking the closure of shops and establishments on various days of the week, Kashmir's trade fraternity on Sunday reacted strongly and said they will launch an agitation in case the order is not revoked.
Chairman, Kashmir Economic Alliance, Muhammad Yaseen Khan said the government's decision of market closure calendar for different days for Srinagar is an "anti-trade announcement" .
Khan, who also heads Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation, said the "autocratic diktat" was unacceptable to the trader community.
"We are living in the conflict-zone in a situation where markets especially those in the central business district of Lal Chowk and old city are often shut due to government restrictions or hartals. How can traders of such area where market remains shut for such reasons go for another day off at the whims and fancies of the government," Khan said.
"Or is it that the government wants us to wind up our businesses. If this is so then the government must come clear on its stand," Khan said.
Asking the government to revoke the order, Khan threatened to launch agitation against the "anti-shopkeeper diktat".
Khan also urged Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to personally intervene and ensure that another "controversy does not erupt from the order".
Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry ( KCCI) in a statement criticized the government for issuing the weekly closure roster. President, KCCI, Javed Ahmad Tenga said the notification issued under SRO-472 appeared to be "regressive, unwarranted and unfair for a variety of reasons."
Din Muhammad Mattoo, president, Lal Chowk Traders Association said the new weekly roster will lead to a complete chaos and urged the government to have "close day" for business on Sunday instead of Monday for the city centre. Mattoo said in presence of the weekly "Sunday market" at the city centre , it would be difficult for shopkeepers to remain open on Sundays.
"We have been asked to observe close day on Monday but opening shops on Sunday is practically not possible. The Sunday flea market and the shops both cannot operate on Sundays. The government needs to rethink on its decision," said Mattoo.
President of Shehar-e-Khaas Traders Association, Nazir Ahmad Shah said government should have taken traders into confidence before deciding about the weekly closure schedule. Shah said asking traders in Downtown to close businesses on Friday is a counter-productive move. " There are revered Shrines in Downtown and especially Jamia Masjid where people from far off places come to offer prayers. The new order to observe Friday closure will hit trade badly especially when Downtown is put under restrictions every now and then,"Shah said.
President of his faction of KTMF, Bashir Ahmad Rather said Sunday closure of market is an aged-old practice which should not be tinkered with.
"There is a set system when schools, colleges, offices are closed on Sunday's and so are the markets. Now introducing weekly calander is a futile exercise and will create a confusion. ,"Rather said.
Farooq Dar, co-chairman of his faction of KEA said the government closure roster is an attempt by the government to exercise its "control" over business community. Dar said business in Kashmir has already been hit by demonitisation and implementation of GST and even tourism has been going through a slump due to negative portrayal of Kashmir. He said an added day of weekly closure will adversely affect businesses here. "These sort of orders are applicable in places where there is business for 14 hours and seven days a week. Kashmir is a conflict zone where this order cannot be implemented. Our shops will remain open on all the days on which we have been asked to observe closure come what may,"Dar said.
Aijaz Shahdhar, spokesman of Kashmir Traders Federation said businessmen are "tax payers and job creators who cannot move as per government diktats". "We have already suffered a lot due to the prevailing situation and now the new schedule has come as a major worry. We already have one or two hartals every week so how can we afford to have an extra day of closure?" questioned Shahdhar.