Perneet Singh, Tribune News Service
Attari (Amritsar), April 9. The Integrated Check Post (ICP) has not only boosted the bilateral trade between India and Pakistan but it has also ushered in good times for residents of this border village and its surrounding areas which had been facing a neglect.
Talking to The Tribune, Manjit Singh, who hails from Jhabal in Tarn Taran and owns a food joint near the ICP, said a number of hotels and dhabas had come up along the GT road ever since the ICP became functional and almost all of them were doing good business. He said the business had almost doubled in Attari and surrounding areas over the last one year. “The land prices have risen to as high as Rs 1 crore per acre, particularly along the GT road on the Amritsar-Attari stretch,” he added.
A tea vendor, Joginder Singh of Ranike village, said the prices had gone up even in villages. “The property prices have soared by 200 per cent in some areas ever since the government acquired 130 acres for the ICP,” he said, adding with a surge in cross-border trade, their income had also gone up.
The town is also attracting investors from other areas. Aman Jaspal, an entrepreneur from Chandigarh, has set up Sarhad, a restaurant specialising in Indo-Pak cuisine, near the border after quitting his job in Norway. Like others, Aman too is happy with his flourishing business here.
However, the ICP has not provided much direct employment to local residents except for 1,500 porters who were already working at the old check post. But, associate business ventures like hotels and transport have generated a lot of job opportunities.
Though no addition has been made in the number of porters at the ICP, their work has increased over the last one year and so has their income. Ajooba Singh, a porter, said there was a lot of work now. But the labour rates had not been increased, he added.
Meanwhile, a section of residents complain that the long queues of trucks have become a nuisance for them. The queue is usually as long as 4 km from the border. Avtar Singh of Rodawala village said they had to face inconvenience as the exit road of their village remained blocked by trucks. Similarly, local shopkeepers complain that the long queue of trucks affects their business as there is hardly any place left for their customers to park their vehicles.
Besides, some local transporters, having political patronage, are allegedly resorting to unfair means by giving priority to their own trucks. Harpal Singh, a truck owner, said: “The local transporters are pushing their trucks inside while the trucks coming from other areas are being made to wait for days together”.
Another truck driver Santokh Singh pointed out that they were made to park their trucks on the left side of the road while the vehicles of local transporters were parked on the right side. “The queue on the right side moves much faster than ours as they are given the priority,” he alleged.
Some truckers allege the local transporters force them to pay a hefty amount to take their goods across the border in their own trucks.
Amritsar Deputy Commissioner Rajat Aggarwal said he had earlier resolved the matter amicably. “However, if any trader or transporter still has a complaint, he can approach the police,” he added.