Flood-hit Lal Chowk traders hold hunger strike, warn of bigger protests

Flood-hit Lal Chowk traders hold hunger strike, warn of bigger protests

Iqbal Kirmani

Srinagar: Lal Chowk traders said on Wednesday that they would be compelled to chalk out a plan for a city-wide agitation if the government does not soon announce a rehabilitation policy for the flood-hit businesses.
The traders, under the banner of Lal Chowk Traders Association, organised a day-long hunger strike at Ghanta Ghar and hit out at the government for “deliberately delaying the announcement of a rehab plan”.
Traffic on the busy Residency Road was disrupted as the tent in which the protesting traders sat blocked the road.
“We are not asking for alms. We demand what is due to us. If they do not heed our demands, then in coming days we will consult all trade bodies of the city and chalk out a full-fledged protest schedule,” president of the association, Deen Mohammad Mattoo, told Kashmir Reader.
“Time and again have we asked the government to come up with a comprehensive policy for the rehabilitation of traders but they seem unmoved by our plight,” he said.
General secretary of the association, Shubhat Mushtaq Shah, said the hunger strike was a warning for the government that bigger protests were in store.
“If they remain unmoved we will bring the entire city to a standstill,” Shah said.
Shah picked holes in two post-flood relief measures—J&K Bank’s overdraft policy and tax rebate announced by the government. “The bank will still charge interest on the overdraft. So where is the relief? As far as tax rebate is concerned, there are practically no sales and how will we pay the tax,” asked Shubhat.
“We want assistance on which interest is not levied,” he added.
According to the protestors, since approximately 80 percent of the traders in the city centre had not insured their goods that were damaged to various degrees. They said that such traders have been left with no stock to sell.
“Uninsured traders should be rehabilitated on priority basis,” he said.
The traders said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit only ended up adding insult to injury.
“While the official media trumpeted that he was coming to soothe the flood-hit people, traders representatives who tried to meet him were thrown out. He only came to boost the morale of his army,” a trader said.
No official visited the protesting traders. However, JKLF chief Mohammad Yasin Malik joined them briefly to show solidarity with their cause.

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