The traders involved in trade across the Line of Control (LOC) with Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) at Poonch in Jammu region say that the trade through this area is on a decline due to the indifferent attitude of governments on both the sides.
Pawan Anand, president of Cross LOC Traders' Association told HT over the phone from Poonch, that the number of tradeable items is coming down and the trade has slipped to 30% of the business taking place in the beginning. The items being traded depend on the demand and are timely items guided by season or the requirement.
According to Pawan Anand, "Previously the cross LOC trade used to be of seven to eight crore weekly which has now dropped to about one crore or even less a week." He added that against the permitted 25 cargo vehicle crossing either side the number has now reduced to three or four vehicles daily. The trade goes on three days a week (Monday to Wednesday).
Anand also said that the reason for this fall in trade was that the government was not clearing the enhanced list of 50 items permitted to be traded. Presently there are just 21 tradable items in the list. Traders have alleged that out of the list permitted tradable items, "They (officials) put unnecessary ban on items being traded like coconut, garlic, dry fruits etc. for unexplained reasons."
The items from this part of Kashmir include fruit (fresh and dry), spices, saffron, carpets, wall hangings, woollens, aromatic and medicinal plants, Cricket bats, black mushrooms, green tea, rajma (red kidney beans) besides other items such as handicrafts, handlooms and other items manufactured in state's industrial units.
Anand said, "Lack of banking and communication facilities are two major obstacles in the way of this cross-LOC trade." This trade is going on barter system and telephone lines from India to Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir are blocked for security reasons.
Chief minister Omar Abdullah had said in the legislative assembly that the union government should open the banking system for the trade instead of present barter system and facilitate communication channels to boost the trade. But nothing has happened in this direction despite the assurance by union home secretary RK Singh during his visit to the trade centres from May this year.
"The cross-LoC trade on Uri-Muzaffarabad in Kashmir valley and Poonch-Rawlakote in Poonch district of Jammu region is declining due to apathy of both Indian and Pakistani governments," remarked Anand.
But the deputy commissioner of Poonch AK Sahu contested the points raised by Anand on behalf of all the cross-LOC traders. He said, "Recent fall in trade was registered due to Ramzan month and following Eid celebrations. It should pick up now."
Sahu said that only those items that are produced or manufactured in both in Jammu and Kashmir or POK are allowed in the trade while the items that traders send from other parts of the both the countries (India or Pakistan) are not allowed. "This ban at times causes loss to the traders."