Cross-LoC traders protest in Srinagar, demand resumption of business

Adil Akhzer
India and Pakistan started the cross-LoC trade in 2008, more as a confidence-building measure.

Traders OF the cross-Line of Control (LoC) trade association staged a protest in Srinagar on Monday, demanding the resumption of trade. The Union Home Ministry had last week "suspended" cross-LoC trade, with officials citing the "misuse" of the facility by those linked to terror outfits across the border.

Carrying placards with messages like "Resume trade, don't play with our fate", the traders said that no notice was served to them before the suspension of trade, and several traders have been put in a difficult situation because their goods worth crores of rupees meant for Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) are lying in godowns.

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India and Pakistan started the cross-LoC trade in 2008 as a confidence-building measure. As many as 21 products, including red chili, cumin, tamarind, bananas, mango, dry dates, and dry fruits are listed for exchange between Jammu and Kashmir and PoK in the trade that is conducted from Tuesday to Friday every week.

"Every trader is registered with the government, and if any violation has taken place, the law agencies have taken strict action. Now, the government has suddenly announced the suspension. The decision has shocked us and livelihood of traders are in danger," said Arif Ahmad, a trader.

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Hilal Turki, chairman of the cross-LoC traders' association told The Indian Express that the traders have demanded that a new mechanism should come up so that trade is resumed. "We are also demanding that the goods waiting on the both sides should be allowed to pass. If the goods continue to remain stocked, there will be loss of crores," he said, adding that traders are approaching the Union Home Ministry regarding the matter.

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Another cross-LOC trader said he was to get stock of meswak worth lakhs of rupees from across the border and he placed the order earlier this year. "We ordered meswak from traders across the LoC and it has a huge demand here during Ramzan. The government should have informed us in advance about the decision. Everyone is worried and stressed," he said.

Riyaz Ahmad, another trader, said spices worth Rs 2.5 crores meant for PoK are stocked in godowns in Srinagar. "If these spices continue to remain in godowns, they will be spoiled soon," he said.