Perneet Singh, Tribune News Service
Amritsar, December 9. Though India received 19 wagons of rock salt from Pakistan and exported 34 wagons of goods to it earlier this week after almost a month, uncertainty looms large over the bilateral trade via the rail route which has come to a halt after Pakistan traders stopped cement export in view of heroin seizures in rail cargo.
Talking to The Tribune, Attari Station Master SK Madaan said 19 wagons loaded with rock salt arrived from Pakistan while 34 wagons loaded with bird feed and chemicals were sent to the neighbouring country on Wednesday.
He said this was the first time in the last one month that Indian wagons crossed over to Pakistan. He, however, said, it could not be termed as return to normal rail traffic until Pakistan resumed cement export after which the movement of goods from both sides would pick up.
The traders too are not satisfied. Jaspal Singh, a trader, said export of a few wagons of goods did not mean return to normalcy. “Unless there is a regular flow of goods to and from Pakistan the trade will not return to normal.” He said the Indian Railways’ move to provide wagons at irregular intervals would not resolve the issue.
He said goods continued to pile up at the Amritsar rail cargo facility. The Railways needed to provide 70 wagons on a daily basis to clear up the exports which were piling up with each passing day, he said, adding the trade was suffering a loss of Rs 3.5 crore daily while the Railways too was losing revenue worth Rs 5 lakh every day.
Jaspal said a leading oil firm had stopped taking further orders from Pakistan after the movement of goods on the rail route came to a halt.
Manav Taneja, another trader, said his goods worth Rs 40 crore were lying in the rail cargo for the past many days.
The trading community is suffering huge losses, he said, adding their payments worth Rs 600 crore were stuck due to this reason and the Railways must step in to save the trade from further losses.
The trade between the two countries got derailed after cement import from Pakistan dropped to zero as a result of which goods train movement between the two nations stopped. To add to the woes, the Indian Railways failed to provide wagons for the export of goods.