Normal life hit as Jammu shuts against ‘anti-trade policies’
Protests held by traders, political parties
Jammu: Normal life was hit across the Jammu region on Wednesday amid a day-long strike call given by the Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industries (JCCI) to protest against the alleged “directionless anti-trade policies” of the administration.
The strike, which evoked widespread support from almost all opposition political parties and social groups, remained peaceful with no untoward incident reported from anywhere, officials said.
The work in courts was affected by the strike, which was also supported by the Jammu chapter of the J&K High Court Bar Association.
The main markets in the city wore a deserted look as shops and business establishments including retail chemist shops were closed, while the movement of public and private transport was thin.
Protests and rallies at various places by traders, activists of National Panthers Party (NPP), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Aam Aadmi Party and Dogra Front in the city marked the strike, which was the first of its kind in the Jammu province after the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019.
Among other things, the sponsors of the strike are agitated over the scrapping of the ‘Darbar Move’ by the government without consulting the stakeholders and new excise policy, rendering wine shopkeepers jobless.
Other issues which triggered the strike included the new Geology and Mining policy, restrictions on banquet halls and proposed opening of the Reliance Retail stores chain even as the company on Tuesday evening clarified that the talk of 100 stores being opened in Jammu is “completely untrue”.
“We have not opened any stores in Jammu and the talk of 100 stores being opened is completely untrue,” a Reliance Retail spokesperson had said.
“We have a few delivery points in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and these are set up by our delivery partners to support the small traders,” it had added.
The business house had claimed that it has a track-record of supporting small traders and “we remain steadfast in our commitment of partnering with small merchants”.
Leading a rally outside the Chamber House here, JCCI president Arun Gupta, however, described the statement of Reliance Retail as “misleading” and said, “We are all united and will continue our struggle to safeguard the interests of the people of Jammu region.”
“This government is deaf and dumb and had miserably failed to fulfill its responsibility to safeguard the interests of the traders. They (Reliance Retail) are claiming that they are not opening the stores but the situation on the ground is different,” he said, amid chants of slogans against the opening of Reliance Retail stores and alleged discrimination with Jammu.
He thanked the people for making the strike successful but said the motive of the JCCI was in no way to oppose the government as far as the abrogation of Article 370 is concerned as “some sections in the political circles” are trying to portray.
“The only reason behind this resentment is the lopsided policies of the J&K government towards the business community of the (Jammu) region,” he said.
Another group of traders led by the Traders Federation WareHouse president Deepak Gupta staged a protest at Nehru Market, while the Chemist Association led by general secretary Prem Sharma also took to streets near the Exhibition ground, terming the statement of the Reliance Retail as an “eyewash”.
“We are concerned about 50,000 small shopkeepers who will be rendered jobless if Reliance opens its retail stores. We will not tolerate any decision which we feel is against the interests of the people of the Jammu business community,” Gupta said.
Activists of the NPP, PDP, AAP and Dogra Front also staged protests in support of the traders.
“We are supporting the strike call given by traders on genuine concerns of the business community and wrong policies of the government,” NPP chairman and former minister Harsh Dev Singh said as activists of the party displayed placards demanding restoration of statehood to J&K.
A group of AAP activists were briefly detained at the city’s Gandhi Nagar police station when they tried to take out a march from there to Dogra Chowk in the city, the officials said.
Congress, National Conference, CPI(M), Lok Janshakti Party besides several social groups had supported the strike and urged the government to roll back the decisions which are against the legitimate interests of trade and commerce.
The officials said police and paramilitary forces have been deployed in strength in sensitive areas to maintain law and order.
Official reports spoke of shutdown and peaceful protests in various district headquarters across Jammu province. (With PTI inputs)