In a setback to the Indo-Pak trade through the newly-built Integrated Check Post (ICP), traders have stopped exports to Pakistan for an indefinite period to protest against high handling charges. While no truck crossed over to Pakistan on Friday, 80 trucks came from across the border. However, Indian traders did not lift the imported goods.
Ever since the ICP became operational, Indian exporters and importers were claiming that they were asked to pay high charges for trade through the new check post.
A couple of meetings between traders and officials of the Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC) and Land Port Authority of India (LPAI) failed to address their concerns.
With things not moving forward, traders finally decided to stop trade, claiming that they would not budge from their stand till a solution was worked out.
Traders claimed that they were asked to pay Rs 200 for each loaded truck entering the ICP from the Indian side and Rs 200 for an empty truck entering the ICP to pick goods coming from Pakistan.
They were also dissatisfied over storage charges levied for various commodities by the CWC. The warehousing corporation was charging Rs 3 per tonne for gypsum and some other commodities coming from and going to Pakistan. Storage charges increase by the day if a commodity was not lifted.
Importers, meanwhile, rue lack of infrastructure to store gypsum, which is dumped in the open. Some godowns have leaking roofs, which have damaged dry fruit, said traders. Citing lack of infrastructure and high storage charges, importers had already stopped the import of gypsum a couple of days back.
A spokesperson of the Confederation of International Chamber of Commerce and Industry said traders were not taken into confidence when rates for various facilities at the ICP were finalised. "Now, apart from labour costs, we are asked to pay 30% operational charges. Traders are also charged for storage, trucks coming into ICP and even for weighing goods."
"Since the day the ICP became operational, CWC and LPAI have been telling us that charges for various facilities will be reviewed, but that has not been done yet. Left with no choice, we decided to stop export and not to pick imports," the spokesperson said.
Demanding reduction in charges, Iqbal Singh Bedi, an importer, said, "Traders cannot afford hefty charges. We will stop trade till a solution is worked out."
India sends soyabean to Pakistan, while dry fruit, cement, dry dates and some other items are imported from the neighbouring country.
The ICP wore a deserted look and the porters were seen sitting idle, as there was no trade activity on Friday.
Traders, including importers and exporters, are expected to meet CWC officials in New Delhi to end the deadlock.
Deputy commissioner (customs) RK Duggal said, only CWC officials can say anything on the matter, as it is the corporation, which is charging from traders.