Traders observe shutdown against ‘politics over rehabilitation’

Traders observe shutdown against ‘politics over rehabilitation’

Nayeem Rather

SRINAGAR: The traders at Batmaloo here Monday observed a shutdown against the “politics played by the government” in rehabilitating the flood-hit business community of Kashmir Valley.
The strike was held on call of the Batmaloo Traders Association (BTA), a component of the Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation (KTMF).
All shops and business establishments in the commercial locality remained suspended even as the traders also staged a daylong token hunger strike to press for their demands.
“The government is joking with us by giving Rs 25, 000 to each food-hit trader as relief. It is utterly disrespectful and inhuman. What can a trader do with this petty sum?” Riyaz-ul-Islam, President of BTA, told Kashmir Reader.
On the name of relief distribution, he said the ruling PDP-led coalition “is playing politics” by helping only “their party workers” and those “sharing their political beliefs”.
Accusing the government of working “unconstitutionally”, the Association said it is the “government’s responsibility” to provide relief to the citizens in time of disasters.
“The government has an inhuman and discriminatory approach towards the citizens and is forcing the traders to live as destitute,” said Riyaz, blaming New Delhi of having “double standards” with respect to Kashmir.
“The flood-devastated traders and people of Uttarakhand were rehabilitated in a short time, but the government of India is deaf to our plight. We have been facing worst kind of discrimination because we belong to Kashmir.”
The KTMF threatened to call for a Valley-wide strike if its demand for rehabilitation is not met soon.
“We are treated as beggars, but we won’t tolerate it any more. We will go for strike if our demands are not met,” KTMF President, Mohammad Yasin Khan, said.
He described the government’s response to traders’ demand for rehabilitation as a “grave shock” and “utterly callous”.
Besides monetary compensation, KTMF’s list of demands includes remission of VAT, relaxation in interest on loans, and income tax exemption. Meanwhile KTMF, in a press statement issued here later in the day, said New Delhi has been giving a “step-motherly treatment” to victims from Kashmir.
“If the government was prompt to reach out to the victims in Nepal, why do we get a step-motherly treatment? We share the grief of people of Nepal and are not against humanitarian efforts in the country, but why double standards when even Prime Minister Narendra Modi had assured due assistance…?” Khan questioned.
The KTMF President also expressed concern over the “injustice meted out to the people of Srinagar” in assessment of losses.
“Even though the assessment has been grossly improper, the divisional and district administration has been reluctant to do a genuine review as if the Babus have to pay compensation out of their own pockets,” he said.
Khan said all flood-hit houses in this summer capital “be declared severely damaged”.