Srinagar: Rejecting the latest government order that has called for closure of shops in old-city Srinagar on Fridays, the Sheher-e-Khaas Coordination Committee (SKCC) said on Sunday that traders won’t obey the order and the government should choose a day other than Friday for the “weekly off”.
President of the committee, Bashir Ahmad Kenu, called the order a “pre-planned conspiracy to crush business community of Old-City”.
“Government has been trying hard to crush the people of Downtown for reasons known to everybody. Now, they are planning to weaken our economic condition and make us dependent on others. Friday is a prime, rather the only business day for us The dictate of closure won’t be accepted at any cost,” Kenu said.
He said that there will be no issues if any other day other than Friday is chosen as the “off-day” by the government.
The SKCC comprises traders of 123 markets who own or run more than 10,000 shops and other outlets in old-city areas that are called Sheher-e-Khaas. Kenu said that more than 20,000 people are directly associated with businesses operating from these markets.
“We will be holding a general council meeting either on Monday or Tuesday to decide the plan of action against the government order,” he said.
Invoking the Jammu and Kashmir Shops and Establishments Act, 1966, an official communiqué made public on Saturday said that the Labour and Employment Department fixed different week days as “close days” for traders and businessmen operating in 56 areas of Srinagar.
Commissioner Secretary Kifayat Hussain Rizvi told Kashmir Reader that the motive behind the directive was decongestion of Srinagar traffic. Moreover, he said, there was a writ petition in the High Court seeking streamlining of traffic in the city.
Strangely, not a single traffic police official is seen on roads in Shehr-e-Khaas to streamline traffic that, traders say, is one of the main causes of traffic congestion in city.
“If government is serious about streamlining the traffic here, they should focus on basic issues like renovation of roads, rehabilitation of vendors at some genuine places, installation of traffic signals and management of vehicles running on the streets of Downtown,” Kenu said.
Meanwhile, president of the Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation (KTMF), Mohammad Yasin Khan, condemned the government’s “unilateral decision” of announcing a market closure calendar.
Threatening to launch an agitation, the federation demanded that the order be revoked with immediate effect. In a statement, Khan, who also heads the Kashmir Economic Alliance, said the “autocratic diktat” was unacceptable to the traders’ community of Kashmir.
“We are living in a conflict-zone in a situation where markets especially those in the central business district of Lal Chowk and old city are often shut due to government restrictions or hartals. How can traders of such area where market remains shut for above reasons go for another day off at the sweet will and wish of the government,” Khan said.
“Or is it that the government wants us to wind up our businesses? If this is so then the government must come clear on its stand,” Khan said, asking the government to revoke the order, or face an agitation against the “anti-shopkeeper diktat”.