Perneet Singh, Tribune News Service
Amritsar, May 1. Four days after they suspended bilateral trade between India and Pakistan at the new Integrated Check Post at Attari, the striking traders today decided to temporarily resume the trade from tomorrow after the government agreed to one of their major demands while assuring to review others as well.
Talking to The Tribune over the phone from New Delhi, Amritsar Exporters Chambers of Commerce vice-president Rajdeep Uppal said the Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC) officials had agreed to allow free storage for three days, including the day of arrival, for gypsum, which had been one of their main demands.
Earlier, the CWC was charging Rs 3 per tonne per day as storage charge for gypsum. Similarly, they told the CWC that cement being imported from Pakistan could not be lifted the same day. He said they also raised the issue of entry fee of Rs 200 per truck for goods being imported from Pakistan and that the CWC had assured to review it.
Apart from it, they also voiced their concern over the exporters being levied labour charges. “Though the trucks loaded with goods meant for export are not unloaded, still we have to pay labour charges. We are also paying 25 per cent of it to the CWC as handling charges despite the fact that they provide no service when it comes to exports,” he said.
The CWC officials told the traders that they had entered into a contract in this regard and they would have to seek a legal opinion on this particular issue. Sources said there were also differences between the two sides as to who would take up the matter with labourers as both of them were passing the buck on each other.
Uppal said CWC managing director BB Pattnaik gave them a patient hearing on various issues concerning the trade at the Integrated Check Post and assured them to review their other demands as well within eight to 10 days. He said a team headed by Land Port Authority of India member Mohinder Ranga would reach Attari on Friday and submit a report after looking into the ground realities for a couple of days.
The traders had proceeded on strike, suspending exports to Pakistan and lifting of imported goods, on April 27 to lodge their protest against “excessive handling charges” at the ICP. Subsequently, the bilateral trade between India and Pak suffered a blow with exports coming to a halt and stock of imported goods piling up at the check post. The only movement witnessed in the otherwise deserted ICP was that of trucks loaded with gypsum and cement that are arriving from Pakistan for the last four days.