Chinese Apple Seized, Released After Govt Intervention

Chinese Apple Seized, Released After Govt Intervention

16 May 2013
The Daily Excelsior
Fayaz Bukhari

Srinagar: The Customs Department seized Chinese apple worth over Rs 1.5 crore in Salamabad, Uri in North Kashmir that was being illegally traded through trans Line of Control (LoC)trade route in Uri. However, after the day long negotiations and intervention from the Government, the Customs Department tonight released the seized apple. The decision of release was taken to save the trans-LoC trade, the Jammu and Kashmir specific Confidence Building Measure (CBM) between India and Pakistan, from derailment. Sources said that earlier the Custodian of the trade in Chakoti PoK had threatened that if the seized apple is returned to Chakoti they will not allow downloading of Indian goods at Chakoti anymore. Deputy Commissioner Baramulla, G A Khwaja, told Excelsior that apple has been released tonight and the issue has been resolved. He said that it was seized by the Customs officials as they suspected it to be the third country produce. The DC Baramulla, Custodian of the LoC trade at Salamabad, Custodian officials and other top officials held series of meetings before the decision of releasing of apple was taken tonight. Sources said that official of the Horticulture Department certified that the apple is a local produce of the PoK before the Customs Department released it. He opined that the apple was kept in cold storage last year and is being sold at better rates now. The Customs Department officials seized the trucks load of apple after they found 25 boxes of apple packed in China with stickers in Chinese language pasted on the packing of the apple boxes. Around 17 truckloads of apple containing 16000 boxes that was traded from Chakoti in Muzaffarabad, PoK are lying in Salamabad, Uri. These apple boxes were to be returned to PoK as trade of a third country item is not allowed through trans LoC trade that runs on barter system. But after intervention by the Government tonight, the Customs Department finally released the apple. According to reports around 8 trucks of apple were seized by the Customs officials at Salamabad on Tuesday after they found Chinese apple in the trucks that arrived from Chakoti in Muzaffarabad. It was followed by seizure of 8 truckloads of apple and one truck load of apple on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. The trade that was started in 2008 is meant for the items produced locally on either side of the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir. But sources said that the Chinese apple, carpets and California (United States) almond is being traded through the trans-LoC trade illegally with the alleged connivance of the officials of the Horticulture Department. “The horticulture experts at Salamabad declare Chinese apple and California almond as a produce of PoK before its download is allowed at Salamabad”, sources revealed. The General Secretary of the Salamabad-Chakoti trans LoC trade, Hilal Ahmad Turki, said that Customs officials have no role in the LoC trade as it is only Ministry of Home Affairs that is authorised to intervene. Turki alleged the Customs official of creating hurdles in the trans-LoC trade. He said that some of the apple boxes had Chinese stickers pasted on them and Customs officials seized entire truckloads of apple. Turki said that apple worth Rs 1.5 crore is rotting at Salamabad and the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is not being followed. “If there is any doubtful item it has to be returned in the same truck on the same day it arrives but the apple that has been seized started arriving from Monday”, he added. Turki said that Kashmiri traders have to pay for the apple that has arrived in Salamabad. He alleged that the trans LoC trade is being discouraged and over the years the number of LoC traders have come down to 50 from 600 when the trade began in 2008. Turki said that last year banana were banned and it was allowed only after the MHA intervened. “Prior to it the coconut that was major trading item was banned completely”, he said.