Cross-LoC ‘barter’ Trade Remains Suspended17 June 2011
Srinagar: The state government is seriously considering the demands of cross-LoC traders and would soon announce some “trader-friendly” decisions, said Minister for Industries and Commerce, Surjeet Singh Salathia here Friday. Meanwhile, the trade continues to remain suspended with local traders distancing themselves from the announcement made by Pakistan-administered Kashmir based Intra Kashmir Trade Union Contact Committee (IKTUCC) about the resumption of cross-LoC trade. The traders have reiterated their main demand seeking complete exemption of Value Added Tax on items imported and exported through LoC trade. They also demanded implementation of Standard Operating Procedure in letter and spirit. Salathia said the demand for VAT exemption was “very much genuine”. “The government is considering this demand seriously. Finance and Law departments are working on it. Trader-friendly decisions would soon be announced,” the minister told Rising Kashmir. He said the government is also considering other demands of LoC traders. “Chief Minister Omar Abdullah will chair a meeting of LoC traders on June 22 where all officials will be present,” said Salathia. “Positive decisions will be taken in the meeting.” Meanwhile, the recently constituted JK Chamber of LoC Trade rejected the announcement made by IKTUCC about the resumption of trade, maintaining that it continues to remain suspended. “LoC trade through Salamabad-Chakoti is suspended for the last three weeks while the trade through Chakandabagh-Poonch has been off for the last three months,” said Pawan Anand, President JK Chamber of LoC Trade. The chamber was constituted by LoC traders of Kashmir and Jammu region to build pressure on GoI, JK Government and Government of PaK to remove the bottlenecks in the trade. “We don’t recognize any trade of PaK in the name of IKTUCC. There are so many trade bodies in PaK. We out rightly reject the announcement made by IKTUCC about the resumption of trade,” Anand said. Earlier, IKTUCC had issued a statement from Muzaffarabad announcing resumption of trade through Salamabad-Chakoti route after a halt of three weeks. “The IKTUCC urges governments of India and Pakistan to redress grievances of traders of both sides. We also appeal the two governments to allow traders of both sides to hold a joint meeting so that the amount of goods traded can be finalized.” General Secretary, JK Chamber of LoC Trade, Hilal Turkey said when they don’t even recognize them (IKTUCC), “how can there be a meeting?” He said cross-LoC trade is a misnomer for barter system as not even a single penny has been transacted since its launch in 2008. Turkey said they won’t resume the trade unless the governments of India, Pakistan, PaK and JK fulfill their demands. “When the trade was started, we used to send 200 trucks on Tuesday and Wednesday every week. The number of trucks has now been reduced to 50 from each side,” he said. Turkey said the state government has been calculating value of goods imported and exported, and projecting the same as success of LoC trade. “Every one used to hear that cross-LoC trade fetches thousands of crores, but in reality it was the goods traded between the two sides. Money has been nowhere involved in it,” he said. He demanded that government must exempt all items traded between the two sides from VAT and implement SOP in true letter and spirit. “When it has been named as trade, let it be trade in real sense,” said Turkey. Senior NC leader and MLA Poonch, Aijaz Jan said government should take concrete steps to remove the hurdles facing the traders. “Trade is must between the two sides. It is the only way that would lead to development of both sides,” he said. “People of Poonch are desperate to start the trade.” Meanwhile, Custodian Salamabad Trade Facilitation Centre, Nazir Ahmed Baba said the efforts of JK government had always been to facilitate smooth trade between the two sides. “We have already facilitated one meeting between the traders of two sides earlier at the Zero Point. We have no problem to facilitate another one if that helps in restoring the trade,” he said.