SRINAGAR: Floods in Kashmir Valley Monday disrupted the routine business in uptown areas here, with the traders, fearing a repeat of September 2014, salvaging their merchandise.
The traders at Lal Chowk told Kashmir Reader that they have been shifting their stocks since Sunday, when the entire city centre including Residency Road, Polo View, and M A Road was inundated with rainwater.
“Since Sunday, all shopkeepers have been trying to save their merchandise. Last time we didn’t get time to do it and ended up losing everything to floods,” Muhammad Altaf Qureshi, who runs a double-storey showroom of readymade garment at Polo View, told Kashmir Reader.
“We may to have to live with these (flood) threats for long, and our first response will always be to protect our merchandise,” Qureshi, who has shifted every product to the upper floor of his showroom, said.
Many traders like Muhammad Yakoob Jan, who deals in textile, have shifted goods to their homes located in the areas that were left unaffected by the September floods.
“I was watching the final of the cricket World Cup on Sunday when I learned about the flood threat. I rushed to my shop and transported all the goods to my house at Hawal in old city,” he said.
Jan said he could not salvage anything during the September floods.
“I and my brother had come to Lal Chowk in the night to salvage the goods, but in vain. This time we didn’t want to take any chances,” he said.
The traders said the September floods have shattered their faith in the government’s ability to deal with disasters.
“We only trust our experience and instincts now. Last time we trusted the government and lost everything,” Mohammad Yasin, whose shop is located at Court Road, said.
Media Head of the Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation, Farhan Jan Kitab, told Kashmir Reader that the traders are yet to come out of the “trauma” caused by the previous floods.
“Many traders sold their valuables to reestablish their businesses. They are in no case ready to take any risk,” he said.
Farhan, however, said taking the merchandise out of the shops would affect the business.
“Traders lose time and resources in shifting the merchandise. In addition, they have to halt their operations till situation convinces them to shift their stocks back into the shops. But we cannot help it, given the experience we had in September,” he said.
According to Farhan, many traders are mulling to reduce the stocks in their shops and showrooms.
“They simply don’t want to take risks,” he added.
Meanwhile, the traders demanded a “permanent solution” to Lal Chowk’s susceptibility to inundation and floods.
“The Chief Minister visited Lal Chowk on Monday morning and asked us to take out goods from our shops. I want to tell him that we are not streets vendors who can shift everything so easily. We have goods worth crores of rupees in shops, and it not always possible for us to remove the commodities,” Bashir Ahmad, owner of a shoe shop near the Clock Tower, said.
“We urge the government to find a permanent solution to this problem, so that we don’t have to remove goods with every downpour.”
Khurshid Ahmad, who runs a fabric shop, accused the government of “wasting the last six months” by not putting in place the “short or long terms” measures.
“The surface drainage system should have been repaired and made functional, while they should have done dredging of Jhelum,” he said.
Nasir Ahmad, another shopkeeper, said “the government must wake up now” and start taking measures that will prevent “reoccurrence of this situation.”
“Yesterday, we reached this place (Hari Singh High Street) and it was already waterlogged, with water seeping into our shops. The situation turns like this every time there is rain. Another worry is that embankments repaired might not be fully fortified,” he said.