Duty hike on Pakistan imports: Truckers, porters struggling to make ends meet
Thousands of porters, labourers and truck drivers have been suffering to make their ends meet as import from Pakistan through integrated check post (ICP) Attari, which facilitates the trade of India with Pakistan and Afghanistan, has come to a halt post duty hike by India.
Government of India has hiked the duty on imports from Pakistan to 200 per cent from 5 per cent on all items on February 17 in response to the Pulwama terror attack. Since then, not a single truck importing goods from Pakistan has entered India, as local traders are unwilling to pay the hiked duty.
There are around 3000 truck drivers and conductors and 2866 porters and helpers, who earn their livelihood working at the ICP.
All of them have been in a quandary as they were witnessing such a situation for the first time. All the porters and truck drivers are from Attari and its surrounding villages.
“We have been working here since 1977 and have not witnessed such a situation. This is for the first time that we have been rendered jobless for nearly a month. We have no clue, where should we go and what should we do to support our families?,” said Amarjit Singh Shinda, president of truck driver union at Attari border.
He said, “Around 25,000 people, families of porters and truckers, are affected with this hike in duty. If oil of private companies can be exported to Pakistan, why the duty on import items from Pakistan can’t be revoked?”
“Even Barter trade in Jammu & Kashmir has not been impacted despite the Pulwama attack taking place there. We have taken up the matter to the Member of Parliament (MP) from Amritsar, Gurjit Singh Aujla, and have even apprised Union finance minister Arun Jaitley, but to no avail,” said Jasbir Singh Khela, a truck driver (?).
President of porter union at Attari, Gursahib Singh, said, “We have been struggling to pay the fee of our children. Our children have been asked not to sit in exams due to pending fee. This is most difficult phase in our life.”
He said if government doesn’t want to revoke the hiked duty on Pakistani imports, it should pay salary to those earning livelihood at the ICP. “We do not have farmland and we live near the border with Pakistan, where there are no industries or work. The government has been playing with our future,” he said.
“We have not received any information so far about government relaxing the duty on Pakistani imports,” said Sukhdev Singh, manager, Land port authority of India (LPAI).
He said on an average around six to ten trucks from Afghanistan enter India through the ICP, which are not enough to engage all the porters and truckers.
Earlier, MP Aujla had assured the porters that he would urge the Central government to cut duty on Pakistani imports by half to resume business at the Attari ICP.
Any solution on revoking the hiked duty on imports from Pakistan would emerge only after the general elections and it will depend on the decision of the new government, said officials privy to the matter.