None enforced, shopkeepers keep shutters down voluntarily
Admn invites Chamber for talks on all demands
JAMMU, Sept 22: A shutdown was observed in majority parts of the Jammu region today on a call given by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) and endorsed by most of the political parties except the BJP in protest against a number of issues, the latest being opening of Reliance Retail Stores.
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The bandh was peaceful with no untoward incident reported from any part of the region as shopkeepers voluntarily downed their shutters and organizers had to make no effort to enforce the strike.
Large number of people told the Excelsior that strong resentment was brewing against the administration in different parts of the region with none to listen to their grievances leave aside addressing them in the absence of political dispensation which also contributed to complete bandh.
“The gap between administration and people is widening. There is none to listen to people’s and businessmen’s issues and address them. The orders that the Administrative Secretaries and the Deputy Commissioners will meet public every week is nothing but a big joke,” the people lamented while extending their support to the bandh.
Shutdown was complete in entire Jammu city with all major markets remaining closed right from the morning. Bandh organizers, mainly the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, had to make no efforts to ensure bandh as the strike was voluntarily and nowhere even a single shop was seen open. Big business establishments also remained shut.
Even in the lanes and by-lanes, the shopkeepers refused to open their shutters and stayed away from the markets.
Same was the position in all major towns of Jammu district which too wore deserted look with shopkeepers downing their shutters.
Sabzi Mandi and Fruit Mandi at Narwal, the supply chains of all vegetable and fruit shops and rehris in the entire region, too went with the bandh call and didn’t open.
Work in courts was paralyzed as the Bar Association president Mohinder Bhardwaj had also supported the bandh call.
Bhardwaj said work across all courts in the Jammu region was disrupted due to strike call given by the Bar Association.
“The bandh should act on an eye opener for the UT administration as it reflects deep hurt in minds of people of Jammu region,” Bhardwaj said and complimented all sections of society for making bandh successful and keeping it peaceful.
The Chemist shops, which generally remain open even during curfew, were closed today which caused inconvenience to the patients and their attendants in getting medicines.
While private vehicles plied normally, some commercial vehicles including matadors and three-wheelers were also seen moving on the roads.
Traffic on Jammu-Srinagar and Jammu-Pathankot National Highways and Jammu-Rajouri-Poonch road was, however, through. Inter-State and intra-State buses and trucks moved normally on the highways and roads but shops were closed at most of the places.
Protests by the CCI among other issues include opening of Reliance Retail Stores which, they say, will badly hit the small traders, scrapping of Darbar Move by the Government without consulting the stakeholders, new Geology and Mining Policies, restrictions on banquet halls, abrupt closure of Bars, treatment with wine shop owners, debarring Mahajans, Khatris, Sikhs and Jains from purchasing Agriculture land, issues of crushers and brick kiln traders, passenger tax on commercial vehicles and issues voiced by the Bar Association.
CCI president Arun Gupta told the Excelsior that a wrong message is being spread that the bandh was against abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A. This is not correct. Big business houses had come to Jammu even when there was Article 370 including Best Price, he said, adding they are not against the Government but the policies propagated by them which has caused sufferings to the local traders and other people. The Chamber has no political agenda, he clarified.
“As per our reports the bandh was complete in almost all major towns across the Jammu region. Traders have voluntarily observed the bandh. Only one section of transport ran its vehicles while other sections of transporters have endorsed the bandh call,” Gupta said.
He said even a number of BJP leaders rang him up and assured their support to the bandh call.
“The statement issued last night by the Reliance Retail Stores that they are not opening 100 Stores in Jammu is misleading. They have removed their Boards overnight from some areas,” the Chamber president said.
On future course of action, Gupta said he has received a call from the Divisional Commissioner and the Additional DGP Jammu for holding talks on issues raised by them. “We will take call on our future course after outcome of the talks”.
Reports of bandh were also received from Samba, Udhampur and Reasi districts. However, in Katra town, the base camp of Mata Vaishnodevi Ji shrine, the traders protested against the opening of Reliance Retail Stores but didn’t observed shutdown as it would have caused inconvenience to the pilgrims.
Leading a rally outside the Chamber House here, the JCCI president, 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 fulfil 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,” Gupta 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 Ware House 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.
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 were deployed in strength in sensitive areas to maintain law and order though no untoward incident took place anywhere.
Official reports spoke of shutdown and peaceful protests in various district headquarters across Jammu province.