'Transactions pending, accounts unsettled'|Affected traders seek resumption of trans-LoC trade

With suspension of trans-LoC trade badly affecting them, the traders associated with it have appealed to the union home for its resumption.

Following tension between India and Pakistan after Pulwama suicide attack in February, the union home ministry ordered suspension of intra-Kashmir trade carried out at two points in Jammu and Kashmir.

The MHA in April ordered suspension of cross-Line of Control trade via Salamabad and Chakan-da-Bagh in Jammu and Kashmir following reports of alleged misuse of the trade routes by Pakistan-based elements for illegal inflow of narcotics, weapons and currency.

The suspension of the trade has rendered over 500 traders jobless, who are now running from pillar to post seeking its immediate.

“Nobody is against scrutiny, but it should not be at the cost of the trade and traders. This trade was started as a confidence building measure between India and Pakistan to de-escalate tension between the arch-rivals and also promote economy of people of Jammu and Kashmir. But unfortunately, it has become a victim of hatred,” said vice president of Salamabad Cross LoC Traders’ Association, Samiullah Bhat.

“Government of India should identify those elements that it claims to have used this trade route for anti-national activities. But it should not punish the whole traders’ community for the fault of a few,” he said, adding that “it would be prudent it the government of India introduces a fool-proof mechanism including banking and communication services for the traders, so that there is no scope for the bad elements to exploit this trade.”

President, Poonch cross-LoC traders’ association, Pawan Anand, said the suspension of trade has “cost the livelihood of more than 2,000 people involved with this trade”.

“We have been told that government of India is drafting a standard operating procedure for carrying out this trade, which would include full body scanners, etc. But so far, nothing has been done.

“We urge the central government to resume this trade immediately, as there are pending transactions between the traders from both sides, who are now worried as they are unable to settle their accounts.”

Pertinently, trade of 21 items like red chilli, mangoes, herbs and dry fruits has been hit following suspension of the LoC trade.

The cross-LoC trade was started in 2008. Till 2017 stood it grew to over Rs 4,400 crore from Uri route, and Rs 2,542 crore from Poonch.

Initially, 646 businessmen from Jammu and Kashmir had registered for trade from the two crossing points, but the number now stands at around 280, who are actually involved in conducting the trade.

When the cross LoC trade started, initially the business was conducted twice a week but from October 15, 2011, the trading days were extended to four.