Trade On Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Road Biggest CBM For Kashmiris
4 September 2005
The Indian Express
Srinagar: As India and Pakistan have agreed to start a truck service for trade on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road, fruit growers and Kashmiri traders term it as the biggest confidence building measure (CBM) towards the business community, especially fruit growers. The opening of the Srinanagar-Muzaffarabad road for trade was our prime demand,' said Ghulam Rasool Bhat, president of J-K Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association, adding, 'Now we can export our fruit to Pakistan and Gulf countries.' Ahead of Partition, Kashmiri growers used to send their fruit as far as Afghanistan and Iran via the same route, then known as Jehlum Valley Cart road. But its closure in 1947 put all business activities on a hold. 'Before Partition, our fruit production was only 16,000 metric tonnes. Now our production has gone up to 15 lakh metric tonnes. The opening of the road will open fresh business avenues for the Kashmiri traders, especially fruit growers,' said Bhat, adding, 'If this road opens for trade, our fruit can reach as far as Dubai in less time and growers can earn handsome profits.' On April 7 this year, after the historical Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road was thrown open, Kashmiri growers and trader community started pressing hard for opening the road for trade as well. In fact, several delegations of the fruit growers and traders met Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and sought his intervention. 'For us, opening of this road for trade is a great news and achievement,' said Irfan Hafiz Lone, president of United Fruit Growers, Sopore. Along with others, Irfan had also met the Chief Minister and other government officials advocating for trade on the road. 'If all goes well, our profits will sky-rocket,' he said. 'We are anxiously waiting for the day when the first apple-laden truck will ply on the road. Not only growers, but also those related with other trades and industries are jubilant over the decision. The trade on the road Trade on Srinagar and Muzaffarabad road biggest CBM for Kashmiris is definitely going to boost our economy and enhance the business turnover,' said Bashir Ahmad Kanroo, secretary, Traders' Federation, Baramulla. 'Closure of the road had left many scars on our community. Now its opening after 57 years is definitely going to be a great healing touch,' he added. Young entrepreneur Arjmand Majid, who had established a small steel furniture unit on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road at Baramulla, sees better business prospects for Kashmiri businessmen along the road. 'Our market will expand and traders can export and import a large number of products through this road. Majority of people in Baramulla are thrilled over the announcement. The township being the first business stopover is going to reap the dividends of the trade. It will be a joyous moment for me to see the apple-loaded trucks plying on the road,' said Ghulam Mohammad, an elderly person in Baramulla. 'I have driven apple loaded trucks on the road before Partition. Now, I am an old man, but I am sure once the trade starts on the roads, lives of people will change,' he said.