Srinagar: Normal life was disrupted in the Jammu region of the Jammu and Kashmir union territory here on Wednesday after a shutdown was observed on the directions of the Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industries (JCCI).
All trade markets, shops and other business establishments remained shut while transport services were also affected in the wake of the strike call, which led to deserted views on the main city centres and other key markets of the region. Due to the strike, work in courts was also interrupted as the call was supported by the Jammu chapter of the J&K High Court Bar Association (JKHCBA).
The traders' body had called for the shutdown to show their displeasure against various policy decisions of the government, which include the proposed opening of about a hundred Reliance Retail stores.
Dozens of traders and activists of the National Panthers Party (NPP), People Democratic Party (PDP) held protests and rallies at key locations in Jammu to mark the strike. The demonstrators raised slogans against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which the traders believe are carrying out policies against their interests.
Wednesday’s strike is the first such stir being witnessed in the Jammu province after the "special status" of the region was abrogated and its division into two union territories in August 2019.
The traders from Jammu have long been alleging “discrimination.” The shutdown was called after various Jammu based trade bodies and groups unanimously decided to launch a stir against what they termed as “ant-trade” policies earlier on September 18. The traders have alleged maltreatment on multiple issues which they say have affected trade in Jammu, such as the government's “arbitrary decision” to end the Darbar Move, an annual shifting of the administrative secretariat between Srinagar and Jammu.
The political parties including PDP, National Conference (NC), Congress, NPP, Apni Party, CPI(M) and Lok Janshakti Party called the traders’ demands “genuine.”
The state of distress, alleged by traders in Jammu, also comes at a time when traders body in Kashmir valley claimed that industrial policies and schemes launched by the central and state governments, particularly during the past three decades, have “failed” both in “mitigating the growing problems of existing enterprises or attracting prospective investments in the industrial sector.”
The Federation of Chambers of Industries Kashmir (FCIK), an apex organisation of industrial enterprises, said that about 85% of industrial units are facing closure in operations by March 2022 in absence of marketing support in case the government's incentive package of 28,400 crores is not extended to existing industries.
“Kashmir based units operate in the most unconducive atmosphere with frequent road blockades, harsh climatic conditions and number of other disadvantages which make it impossible for them to compete with their counterparts operating from most advanced states having zero inventory mechanism and cheap labour," president FCIK, Shahid Kamili, said in a statement.
The FCIK expressed their concerns to Som Prakash, Minister of State for Commerce, during an interaction in Srinagar around the same time the Jammu traders called for a strike last week.
Businessmen in the region have said they have incurred losses worth over 44,000 crores, especially in the aftermath of back to back lockdowns- following the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019 and due to the pandemic in the last 18 months. They have been regularly sending distress calls to the authorities for aid and support since then. Meanwhile, the JCCI has warned of intensifying their protest in case their demands are not met.