For the first time since the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Jammu has come up with a long list of “adverse business related decisions of the government in the past two years” and accused it of “marring businesses.” To the surprise of all, the chamber has given a Jammu bandh call on September 22.
The latest proposal of big companies like Reliance to open 100 stores in Jammu in the retail sector has become a trigger for the business community to announce the bandh and denounce the government decisions.
“We don’t have one issue. We have issues,” says JCCI president Arun Gupta addressing a press conference in Jammu. “The reliance stores are coming up in Jammu. The reliance is not opening one store but hundreds. Where will our small traders go?” Gupta asked. “The reliance has infrastructure. It has manpower. How come small traders compete with it? They will give jobs to 1000 youths of Jammu but 20,000 small shops will get closed. Where will they go? We will not accept it,” Gupta who was flanked by members of different trade associations of Jammu said.
Citing example of ending 150 old practices of Darbar Move, he said for the past eight months Jammu trade is being disturbed by the government and the tragedy is there is no debate and discussion with the business community. He said the decisions are taken in closed rooms and orders are issued and Jammu trade is being put to a severe test.
“In 1988-89 popular government of Farooq Abdullah said there will be no Darbar Move. Jammu remained closed for 23 days against the announcement. That time Jammu chamber, the bar association Jammu and BJP opposed it. BJP supported us that time and Farooq Abdullah was forced to change his mind. But today the BJP doesn’t see anything. The government says it saved Rs 200 crore by ending Darbar Move. But they didn’t take into consideration thousands of crores of transaction taking place between Kashmiris and Jammu during the Darbar Move,” Gupta said.
“Why they want to create a system by means of which Jammu people will remain in Jammu and Kashmiris in Kashmir. If it is so, then why don’t they divide the region further,” angry Gupta said. “When Muslim community from Kashmir comes to Jammu in winters and we go there in summers, apart from the business it binds regions together. Why do they (government) want to kill this brotherhood,” Gupta asked.
Jammu and Kashmir administration in June this year cancelled residential accommodations of 'Darbar Move' employees in Jammu and Srinagar and with it ended the 149-year-old biannual tradition of government officials shifting capitals between Srinagar and Jammu.
Prior to this, about 10,000 employees working in the civil secretariats in Jammu and Srinagar would move between the two cities twice every year as the administration would use Jammu as its winter capital and Srinagar as its summer capital. This practice was known as the ‘Darbar Move’.
“All over the country bar and restaurants operate under one single license system. If someone has got licenses for the bar and restaurant, he doesn’t need to get licenses again and again. But in Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory they have completely upended the trade leaving 10,000 families out of it,” Gupta said.
In April this year hundreds of wine traders lost their livelihood after the introduction of e-auction of liquor vends in Jammu and Kashmir. A majority of 228 liquor traders, all from Jammu, lost their shops in the e-auction. The e-auction fetched Rs 140 crore for one year to the government as against Rs 10 crore on account of the annual renewal of the licence in the past.
“I see in the meetings of the LG and other officials having 250 to 300 people. Political parties also organise functions attended by hundreds. But in banquet halls in Jammu, only 25 people are allowed.”
He said in contrast to Kashmir, only Jammu businesses are targeted. He alleged that the government claimed people would settle in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 but the RTI has recently revealed that traders from outside are settling in Jammu and no one is going to Kashmir.
He said the government is not willing to meet and discuss issues with trade bodies forcing them to call for Jammu bandh.