Over 100 trucks carrying different items, including 24 stationed at the Salamabad trade centre in Uri, have been waiting to cross over for nearly two weeks because of repair work on the Kamaan post bridge that is used to cross the Line of Control (LoC).
Expressing dismay at the delay, the cross-LoC traders association claimed that perishable goods in the waiting trucks have already been damaged.
“Since March 8, trade has remained suspended from Salamabad to the Pakistan side, because we were informed that the bridge needs repairs.
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There are perishable items in the trucks, including bananas and vegetables, and lot of them have been damaged. We don’t have an exact estimate, but there are goods worth over Rs 1 crore,” Hilal Turki, chairman, cross-LoC traders’ association, told The Indian Express.
In a letter to authorities, the association stated: “…our traders mostly deal with fresh items and the value of those items is in millions of rupees, here we would like to bring in your kind notice that most of the products come from all over the country and as such our loaded fresh trucks remain in transit for a week or more.”
A letter issued on March 9 by the custodian, trade facilitation centre, Salamabad, states: “It is intimated due to the sustained use of Kaman Aman Setu for cross-LoC trade for a long period, the bridge has suffered some damages which requires immediate repair to prevent further deportation. Inspection of the bridge was carried out… on March 8, 2019, which indicated that the bridge needs urgent repairs and maintenance to ensure its longevity. The repair would require minimum 10-15 days.”
Trade between the two countries takes place from Tuesday to Friday every week. When contacted, Deputy Commissioner Baramulla G N Itoo told The Indian Express: “We received a message from the Army that the bridge requires some repairs. They had contacted the Pakistan side as well… I have again contacted the officials and a joint inspection has been done. The work has to be started. I cannot say how much time it will take,” he said.
Asked about the damage to items in the stranded truck, Itoo said he had “no such information”. SDM Uri, Riyaz Malik, said trucks are stranded at the Salamabad trade centre and at other places nearby in north Kashmir. “The work is going on,” he said.
The weekly Karvan-e-Aman or Peace Bus from Srinagar to Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which operates every Monday, has also been suspended.
Cross-LoC trade and the bus service were suspended last month, too, after tensions between India and Pakistan escalated in the wake of IAF airstrikes targetting a Jaish-e-Mohammad camp in Balakot in Pakistan.