By Zeenish Imroz
Kashmiri traders have their huge investment held in the shape of Goods at Line of Control (LoC) after the sudden suspension of trade left the breadwinners of over 20,000 families unemployed for more than four months now.
On April 18, Ministry of Home Affairs suspended the trade, stating that probe agencies had found that the trade route was being “misused for smuggling illegal weapons, drugs and fake currency by elements from the neighboring country”.
Hilal Turki, Chairman of LoC Trade Union, said the actual suspension took place on 8th March, when a letter by the local administration stopped the trade, stating the condition of Kaman Aman Setu Bridge unsafe and its immediate repairing.
“As the trade runs on Barter system without any involvement of bank transactions, our maximum Goods are in transit from different countries,” Turki told The Indus Post.
“The investment of all the traders is on hold in the shape of Goods which is making the traders suffer miserably. Mounting liabilities will force the traders to sell their properties and make them bankrupt in the process of clearing debts,” he lamented.
According to the data by LoC Trade Union, in the past ten years, this trade had provided 172,000 labour days in norther Kashmir’s frontier Uri. Though the condition of the transport agencies in Kashmir isn’t good but 63,000 truck drivers were hired from Uri to Srinagar and vice versa till date.
Besides traders, the suspension has affected a huge network of people depending upon the trade.
Samiullah Bhat, vice-president of the LoC Trade Union, said the trade body is only asking for a month’s time to clear their dues at LoC.
“We support the fool-proof mechanism stated by the government,” Bhat told The Indus Post. “It will make the trade easier for us, but the huge investment held up right now is creating problems for the traders on both sides.”
Bhat said LoC Trade Union wrote to Secretary Home Ministry, Governor and even sought appointment with Chief Secretary but “we have got no reply from any government agency, even after protesting twice,” he rued.
Even repeated attempts from The Indus Post to reach out to government officials failed to yield any response on the mounting debt and distress of the Cross-LoC traders.
And meanwhile, the local market depending on the trade has already taken a huge hit.
Pakistani Wear, which has become a trend in Kashmir from last few years, is now disappearing from market, as most of the Pakistani boutiques are running out of stock due to the ban.
“Ever since the ban has been imposed, the market appetite for Pakistani suits has only increased,” said Showkat Ahmad, an owner of a Pakistani Boutique in Srinagar. “Women prefer Pakistani bridal wear, and the Eid Collection was much awaited by our customers. Since the trade got suspended, we are facing a lot of loss.”
But the ban has largely affected the labour class of frontier Uri, who used to earn their living as labourers. They are now either sitting idle or doing meager jobs for survival, while hoping to return to LoC soon as labour force.