Traders’ Plight and Indifferent Govt

Lal Chowk traders held a day-long hunger strike on Wednesday and warned the government that they will solicit help from other trade organisations in the city to widen protests if no step is taken to compensate them for the losses they suffered in the September flood. The strike shows their desperation and rage. Their attempts to get a concrete assurance from both the state government and the government of India have failed so far. The Chief Minister is learnt to have bluntly told a delegation of the traders that he has no money to dispense and they should wait for the New Delhi’s largesse. And when they were not allowed to meet Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi on his hyped Diwali visit, their hopes dimmed further. About 80 percent of the traders, according to Lal Chowk Traders’ Association, were uninsured and are finding it extremely difficult to restart businesses. The government’s attitude toward the plight of the traders in the capital city’s business hub indicates that its expressions of concern over the flood will appear empty rhetoric to the affected businessmen and the people of the state at large. A government that has less than a month in office and a bad record of governance lost a chance to make a connect with a vibrant section of the society. The state government would have mitigated the anxieties of the traders by at least promising them to pursue their case forcefully with the government of India. Also, no representative from any political party, which are in full election mode and have privileged rehabilitation of the affected people over other issues, visited the traders during the strike. This sends a message that the traders of the city’s nerve centre have little to hope from a different future dispensation too unless these parties make some concrete promises in their yet-to-be-released manifestoes. When most political parties stress on the need for rebuilding a new Kashmir and spare no opportunity to remind the people that economic progress can’t be sacrificed at the altar of azadi, what message will go out when the traders of the most happening place in the capital city sit on hunger strike? Confidence building is going to be the most essential part of any rehabilitation plan. But when the businessmen block an arterial road to lament that “they are not beggars”, the government has dealt a serious blow to their already sagging spirits.