Cross-LoC trade in jeopardy3 June 2010
The Daily Excelsior
JAMMU: Cross-LoC trade on Poonch-Rawlakote route has once again run into rough weather with traders on this side threatening to go ahead with boycott, started last week, till their demands are met and the authorities insisting that they can’t go beyond the Standing Operation Procedures (SOP) to facilitate the trade. The trade was suspended by the businessmen of this part of divided State last Wednesday after Trade Facilitation Authorities refused to allow import of ‘ajwain’ from Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) on the ground that it didn’t figure in 21 items approved for import-export by the India and Pakistan Governments. It was not conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday this week as a compromise formula between the traders and the authorities couldn’t be worked out. Official sources said the businessmen, engaged in cross-LoC trade, were opposed to abrupt ban on items by the authorities and wanted that they should be informed at least a month in advance that a particular item can’t be imported from across the Line of Control (LoC) so that their money is not blocked. Authorities were, however, of the view that they have already circulated the list of 21 items approved for import-export and were ready to publish it once again for benefit of the traders. Deputy Commissioner, Poonch, Kuldip Lal Khajuria, who happened to be the Custodian of cross-LoC trade on Poonch-Rawlakote route, told the Excelsior that he has received a representation from the traders, which has also been addressed to the Divisional Commissioner, Jammu. 'We are planning to convene a meeting of the traders with the Commissioner-Secretary Industries and Commerce and the Divisional Commissioner to sort out the issues’’, he said, adding the Customs authorities were working as per guidelines issued by the Central Government. A leading cross-LoC trader, Pawan Anand said the ‘ajwain’ was being imported for past several months. The authorities never objected to its import till last Wednesday when nine trucks carrying ‘ajwain’ from PoK were not allowed to be off-loaded on the ground that the item was not part of 21 items approved for the trade. 'The traders had placed Rs 2 crore worth orders for ‘ajwain’. As the trucks carrying ‘ajwain’ were sent back, we had to suffer the losses as we had already dispatched the items for exchange of ‘ajwain’ under barter system of the trade’’, Mr Anand said, adding the authorities should serve one month notice in advance for imposing ban on import of any item. According to the traders, the authorities had promised to convene a meeting of traders of two parts of divided State after every three months on the zero line at Chakan-Da-Bagh to help the traders match their accounts. The meeting has not been arranged for last several months, they said. According to official sources, the meeting was arranged last month but the traders refused to proceed to zero line on flimsy grounds despite the fact that the traders from other side kept waiting for several hours before returning. They said the authorities were ready to arrange a meeting between traders of two parts of divided State after speaking to their counterparts in Rawlakote. They added that they were also ready to accept demand of the traders for replacement of DySP Rajinder Singh from the trade duty in the interest of cross-LoC trade. Authorities were, however, of the view that they were not ready to accept the demand of traders to allow drivers to proceed to PoK with on spot verification. 'As it is an issue of national security, the traders will have to furnish names of truckers at least a week in advance for their proper verification’’, sources said, adding the businessmen have been told that truck operators must be rotated to ensure that they are not trapped by the agents of Inter-Services Intelligence and militants as had been observed in the case of a number of truck drivers, who had been won over by the ISI spies. Authorities were of the view that some of the traders in Jammu region were working for Punjab based businessmen importing and exporting items for them from Poonch-Rawlakote route where taxes are exempted. The taxes are levied on Wagah route, which increase cost of several items. Declining to reveal identity of such traders, sources said, they are always in forefront of creating problems for cross-LoC trade.