With the porters and traders stuck to their divergent stands, trade at the Indo-Pak border continued to suffer as the porters refused to call off their strike at the Integrated Check Post (ICP), which entered the second day on Wednesday.
Demanding more labour charges, the porters had stopped work on Tuesday, largely affecting imports and partly even the exports. On the second day of the strike, 24 trucks from Pakistan off-loaded their cargos at the ICP while around 74 trucks crossed the border from the Indian side.
"All ee can say is that the strike impacted 50% of the bilateral trade as around 100 trucks with items meant for exports crossed over while the same number loaded with imported goods came over to this side in these two days. This is a lean period or else the impact would have been much more," a Customs spokesperson told HT.
He said that a round of talks was held between the two sides to break the deadlock but it remained inconclusive. Besides the traders and the porters, officials of the Customs, BSF, the Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC) also participated in these talks.
The traders stuck to their stand that they would not pay a penny to the porters for the gypsum which is imported in large quantities as all off-loading and loading operations were mechanical. They claimed that the porters were collecting charges on gypsum as well.
The porters, who are hired by contractors, have stuck to their demand for higher wages. They have also demanded that they be provided medical insurance as they faced health risks while handling caustic soda, cement and various types of chemicals imported from across the border.
The actual worry is for the traders of perishable commodities meant for export. A number of trucks loaded with onions remained stranded and the traders in the commodity were a worried lot due to rising day temperatures.
Security beefed up: DC; will meet with truckers, traders today
Deputy commissioner Rajat Aggarwal said, "As of now, the strike by porters is an issue that has to be resolved by the CWC and other agencies operating at the ICP. Outside the ICP, we have taken steps and beefed up security to ensure that nothing untoward happens.
The DC would hold a meeting of truck union leaders and traders on Thursday to resolve the differences between the two. The traders have alleged that the truckers charge heavy amounts for ferrying their goods and this could adversely impact border trade.
The meeting has been called at the instance of revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia who had met traders on Tuesday. He had asked the DC to find an amicable solution as the truckers had accused traders of forcing them to overload their vehicles.
"We will also take up the issue of porters' strike at the meeting. The leaders of the porters union have also been invited for the talks alongwith officials of certain agencies operating at the ICP," the DC added.