Traders down shutters, hold protests

Traders down shutters, hold protests

Iqbal Kirmani

Srinagar: Business came to a standstill on Wednesday across the Valley in response to a call by traders against government’s failure to rehabilitate the business community hit by last year’s devastating floods.
Raising slogans against government, hundreds of traders took out processions in different markets of the city and converged at the city center Lal Chowk where a makeshift tent was erected by them.
The strike was supported by Jamia Market Traders’ Federation and Hari Singh High Street Traders’ Association, Traders Coordination Committee Zaina Kadal and other business associations.
“Those who pay taxes know how to demand their rights from the government which is delaying and denying what rightfully belongs to us,” Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA) chairman Muhammad Yaseen Khan told Kashmir Reader.
“We will intensify our protests if the government fails to launch a rehabilitation programme,” said Khan.
KEA and Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation (KTMF), which had called for the shutdown, have been demanding compensation of the losses incurred during the September floods.
“Only talking and sympathizing with us is not what a government is meant to do. As a state they should have acted fast,” Khan said.
He said the losses suffered by business community is estimated to the tune of Rs 30,000 crore, affecting over 65,000 business establishments, out of which 14,000 have shut down.
Khan said revival of the business activities was impossible in the absence of external assistance as traders have suffered colossal damages in the deluge and are struggling for revival since.
“Compensation of the losses and rehabilitation of the traders should be the first priority of the new government,” he said.
“The business fraternity has been pushed to the wall and they will go to any extent to have their losses compensated,” KTMF president Mohammad Sadiq Baqal said.
The Federation members also accused the insurance companies of adopting delaying tactics and negative approach in settling the insurance cases. They also denounced the approach of banks towards the flood-hit traders and termed it “non-cooperative and inhuman”.
“The Federation has set a charter of demands seeking compensation of losses and rehabilitation of the traders, besides 10 year interest-free advances be arranged as business capital for the traders,” said KTMF president.
The traders also demand that all taxes including VAT and income tax be suspended till their rehabilitation and have also sought interest waivers on all bank loans.
JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik and general secretary of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai were among others who joined the sit-in of the traders. No official from the administration visited the spot.
Reports of near-total shutdown were also received from different districts of the Valley.