Valley Traders Join Chorus For K-resolution2 December 2010
Srinagar: Maintaining that Kashmir dispute was an impediment towards making the Valley economically strong and self-reliant, the traders of Kashmir on Thursday announced to launch a campaign for resolving the 63-year old conflict. The traders will strive for resolution of the dispute under the banner of Kashmir Economic Alliance-an umbrella of flagship sectors including tourism, transport and industry comprising of four lakh enterprises. “The lingering of Kashmir dispute is affecting our business. Since 1947, Kashmir’s economy has not grown to its full potential. During the past two decades, our economy has receded to a virtual collapse. Kashmiri people and the business community have suffered immense hardships due to lingering of the dispute. In this backdrop, we formed the Kashmir Economic Alliance to sustain and survive under the perpetual political unrest and stress for permanent resolution of the conflict,” Siraj Ahmad, the spokesman of the KEA said while addressing a press conference at SKICC here soon after launching ceremony of the Alliance. Siraj, who is also president of Kashmir Hotel And Restaurant Owners Association (KHARA), said the constituent members of the KEA are of unanimous opinion that peace and tranquility, which are catalysts for healthy growth of economy, can only be achieved with the amicable and permanent settlement of Kashmir. “It is our intrinsic responsibility both as citizens, and as the largest business alliance of the Valley, to play a useful role towards safeguarding the interest of Kashmir and its economy by adopting ways and means to persuade the leadership and authorities at the helm of affairs to strive hard for an early settlement of Kashmir issue. We will be meeting all those who are for resolution of the issue to realize the dream of peaceful and self-reliant Kashmir,” he said. However, Siraj minced no words in accusing the Government of adding insult to injury of traders in Kashmir. “Government is leaving no stone unturned to harass the traders particularly the shopkeepers by sending them notices for evacuation of their shops. It is high time for the Government to decide whether it wants to adopt trade friendly polices or resort to highhandedness of the traders. But KEA will not act as mute spectator to the discrimination and would fight for the traders’ rights,” he said. He said the KEA will welcome the policies and suggestions which are aimed at harnessing Kashmir’s natural resources and play an advisory role to salvage the ailing economy. “The Alliance has assumed a representative character of the traders’ community of Kashmir as it comprises of over four lakh big and small business enterprises involving a major portion of entire population of the Valley. Our doors will be open and any trader or organization can join us to take our endeavor forward,” he said. Siraj, however defended the strike calls given by the Hurriyat Conference (G) saying they were a form of resentment against the atrocities. Earlier, during the KEA launching ceremony, Mir Habibullah of KHARA, said the uncertain political situation in the Valley has drastically affected the tourism sector. “We have made huge investments in development of tourism infrastructure. But we are not getting the returns mainly due to political unrest in the Valley. Over four lakh people associated with the sector are sitting idle and struggling to repay the loans in absence of any business due to the unrest. The resolution of Kashmir will mitigate the sufferings of people and help Kashmir to usher in every sphere,” Mir said. Dr Zain-ul-Abidin, the president of Kashmir Food Processing Association, said a misconception has been created that Kashmir can become self-reliant. “We don’t have gas or fuel but have so much water resources that we can produce 25,000 MWs of electricity and feed whole India. We have natural resources including Saffron, Walnut, Medical and Aromatic Plants and poultry but in absence of policies, we are not able to increase their production. We import everything from outside the State. There seems to be a conspiracy to make Kashmiris economically dependent,” he said. Nazim Wadeera, the president of Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Association traced the history of discrimination against the traders in Kashmir to 1865 when 28 shawl weavers were killed by Dogra soldiers. “Since then the traders are suffering at the hands of successive regimes. In ‘90s, the troopers killed over one lakh Kashmiris and despite turmoil in the Valley, the Government forced the traders to pay the sales and municipal taxes. Recently, the authorities issued notices to 4,000 shopkeepers asking them vacate their shops. KTMF has always fought for traders’ rights and will foil all attempts to suppress them,” he said. Sheikh Muhammad Yousuf, the president of Passengers Mini Bus Transporters Federation assailed the Government for failing to streamline the transport system in the Valley and protect interests of the drivers. “Despite agreement, the Government has failed to stop the entry of tourist vehicles from Pantha Chowk. The plying of buses of other states in the Valley has affected out business. The increase in passenger tax has compounded our problems. Besides, the troopers unnecessarily harass our drivers,” he said. Among other the representatives of various organizations including Kashmir Electronic and Mobile Distributors Association, Kashmir Tourist Taxi Operators Association were present in the function.