Only Kashmir Goods To Be Traded At LoC: Officials

4 June 2009
The Indian Express

Jammu: To check evasion of customs duty during cross LoC trade, the Central Government in a fresh condition has made it mandatory for traders that goods to be traded by them with PoK should be either grown or manufactured in Jammu and Kashmir. This new restriction from Centre led to suspension of cross LoC trade at Chakkan Da Bagh on Thursday, with aggrieved traders on this side holding a dharna at the Trade Facilitating Centre. Despite repeated requests from officials, traders refused to accept consignments from their PoK counterparts until their trucks were also cleared to go across the LoC. As traders did not agree to accept goods from PoK despite repeated persuasions, the officials at Chakkan Da Bagh held a flag meeting with their PoK counterpart and decided to wait till traders from both sides meet there on Tuesday to sort out issues between them. Officials sources said that a letter from Commissioner Customs at Jalandhar had come on Monday banning not only the export of coconut and Ilaichi to PoK, but also instructing officials to allow export of only those goods in cross LoC trade which have their origin in Jammu and Kashmir. The letter made it mandatory for traders to produce certificate that goods being traded by them were of state origin. This, official sources said, following complaints about the evasion of customs duty on a large scale in the cross LoC trade as many a traders were exporting goods grown elsewhere the country to Pakistan through Poonch-Rawalakote route. While some traders in Jalandhar had met the Customs Commissioner there in the matter, a delegation of local traders from border Rajouri and Poonch districts too had taken up the issue with an official from PMO who visited state recently. The Punjab traders’ plea was that they were made to pay customs on export of goods to Pakistan, while the same items were being traded to neighbouring country by some traders through cross LoC route without payment of any customs. In the process, the Centre was losing customs duty on various items being traded through cross LoC route even when these were neither grown nor manufactured in Jammu and Kashmir. The local traders, on the other hand, were also opposed to trading of goods other than those grown or manufactured in Jammu Kashmir as it had led to multi-fold increase in prices of various commodities at home, besides adversely affecting their business. They had already lodged their complaints with local administration accusing traders from neighbouring Punjab and Jammu having joined hands to trade goods through cross LoC route which, otherwise, would have attracted customs duty in case of their export through Wagah near Amritsar. In this connection, they pointed out that Moong Ki Dal which was available in Poonch at Rs 20-25 per kg was now being sold there at Rs 48-50 per kg. Similarly, banana was being sold there at Rs 4.50 to 5 per piece against its earlier price of Rs 2.50 to Rs 3. The onion, which was available in Poonch at Rs 10-11 per kg was now being sold there at Rs 18 per kg. Trade Facilitating Officer at Chakkan Da Bagh, Matloob Khan, said that he was informed about ban on coconut and ilaichi by Customs officials only Tuesday afternoon even when he had already cleared 22 trucks for PoK the previous day. As a result, while trucks loaded with other items were allowed to go across the LoC, those carrying coconut and ilaichi were withheld. “Today, I was asked by Customs officials to certify that goods being exported to PoK had their origin in the state. However, I could not issue the required certificate as most of the goods loaded in trucks had their origin elsewhere the country” he said, adding that the trucks were loaded with items like coconut, cherry, banana, lemon and ilaichi most of which are either not grown in the state at all or grown in very little quantity. Earlier, the Centre had imposed ban on import of garlic and ginger from PoK. While the garlic was banned following the detection of pathogen infection in it, Centre claimed that ginger did not figure in the list of 21 tradable items approved by India and Pakistan.