A ‘surgical strike’ against one’s own

A ‘surgical strike’ against one’s own
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Reliant on import of sufrgical instruments from Pakistan, Indian markets are set to face shortage as consignments are stuck at border

Srinagar: India is at the receiving end of a surgical strike that it itself has carried out by hiking custom duty to 200% on all Pakistani goods.
A huge consignment of surgical instruments from Pakistan has been stuck at Punjab’s Wagah border as hundreds of Indian suppliers have failed to pay the high custom duty.
According to suppliers, the delay in custom clearance will lead to shortage of vital surgical items in Indian markets.
The consignment awaiting the go-ahead from custom officials in Amritsar was dispatched from Sialkot in Pakistan via Samjhauta Express train more than a week ago, when the maximum custom duty on imported items from Pakistan was not more than 18 percent.
A pre-Partition industry set-up continues to produce more competitive surgical instruments in the Punjab province of Pakistan.
The custom duty was hiked after New Delhi revoked the ‘Most Favoured Nation’ (MFN) status to Pakistan on February 15 a day after the Pulwama attack, which killed 49 CRPF soldiers.
“We are not able to pay the revised custom duty of 200 percent because it’s too much. We are demanding that our consignments should be released on earlier custom duty so that we fulfill the demand of different hospitals and medical colleges in different parts of India. We will stop trading with Pakistan in future,” Mohit Mahajan, President of Surgical Instrument Manufacturers and Traders Association of India, told Kashmir Reader.
The imports include scissors, forceps and other surgical instruments. Surjit Kumar, a supplier based in Amritsar, said the prices of surgical instruments and other related items will sky-rocket in coming days because most of the surgical instruments come from Pakistan.
“We ordered the supply before February 15. Now, the hike has affected our delivery as custom officials at Wagah border refused to clear them on the previous duty. It will affect our business and hugely increase the rates in the market,” he said.
“The hike will affect healthcare services as it will put huge burden on ailing people,” said Nigam Gupta, a supplier from Jammu.
He said India’s major imports from Pakistan are fruits and nuts, cement, gypsum, sulphur, finished leather, ores, mineral oils, cotton, and surgical Instruments.
“When we talk about healthcare, cotton and surgical instruments become important and the new tariff of 200 percent is higher than India’s average bound rate for agricultural products of 113.5 percent and that for non-farm goods of 34.6 percent. The MFN status applied rates were 32.8 percent and 10.7 percent for farm and non-farm products, so it will cost dearly for us and those whom we supply,” Gupta explained.
He said 90 percent of the suppliers import surgical instruments from Pakistan as the items are manufactured by hammer forging technique available in the neigbouring country at cheapest rates.
“On hammer forging technique, Pakistan has an advantage over India due to its cheaper labour that is passed down as a hereditary skill,” Gupta said, adding that most of the suppliers in India are based in Punjab’s Jalandhar as they receive surgical instruments from across the border mainly through the Delhi-Lahore rail link.