Closure of Hussainiwala-Lahore trade route in 1971 proved death knell for economy : The Tribune India

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Closure of Hussainiwala-Lahore trade route in 1971 proved death knell for economy

Ferozepur residents look to Modi for reopening of this border, which was closed in 1971

Closure of Hussainiwala-Lahore trade route in 1971 proved death knell for economy

The end of Northern railway line near the Hussainiwala border in Ferozepur district.



Anirudh Gupta

Ferozepur, June 17

Every drawing room conversation or “nukkad” meeting in this part of the world hinges on the dire need to reopen the Hussainiwala-Lahore border for trade, which was closed in the aftermath of 1971 India-Pakistan war.

Since the past five decades, the residents had been clamouring for the revival of this trade route, which was the lifeline of traders engaged in import-export of dry-fruits, vegetables and clothes.

Traders suffering

The traders’ community is suffering on both sides of the border due to closure of this route. With Modi attaining power again, there are hopes that this transit route will be reopened. — Ashok Pasricha, Chief, Mandi Association

High Demand for veggies

Besides onions and potatoes, there is great demand for green chillies, ginger and other vegetables in Pakistan, which can be easily exported through this route. — Kuldeep Gakhar, A commision agent

Hopes dashed to ground

Since the past 53 years, we have been clamouring for the reopening of this trade route, but due to the hostilities and belligerent relations between the two neighbours, all our hopes have been dashed to the ground. — Ashwani Mehta, Head, Beopar Mandal

Even local cinema halls attracted a lot of visitors from across the border, however, its sudden closure sounded the death knell for economic prosperity of this area as hotels, restaurants and trading houses eventually shut down. Several transporters, porters and taxi operators also shifted their bases elsewhere.

However, leaders cutting across party lines have been stating “border khula diyange”, especially when the elections are around the corner. Once the voting takes place, the issue is placed on the backburner.

This time, residents have pinned their hopes on Modi 3.0 to take steps to address the issue which can bring economic prosperity for people in Malwa.

On several occasions, including during his address at the SAARC summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had emphasised on the need to explore direct trade routes to shrink distances between the producers and consumers, stating that the goods were travelling from one Punjab to another (in Pakistan) via Mumbai-Dubai-Karachi, which makes the journey 11-times longer and increase in costs.

After his statement, the traders had become “optimistic” of “acche din” as they had been exporting goods to Lahore, which is just 45 minutes away, however, due to closure of this border, it takes almost 45 days through a longer detour.

“The traders’ community is suffering on both sides of the border due to closure of this route. With Modi attaining power again, there are hopes that this transit route will be reopened,” said Ashok Pasricha, chief, Mandi Association. He added that perishable goods, including vegetables cannot be shipped.

Besides onions and potatoes, there’s great demand for green chillies, ginger and other vegetables in Pakistan, which can be easily exported through this route, said Kuldeep Gakhar, a commision agent.

Industrialist Upkar Singh Ahuja from Ludhiana said agricultural equipment, cycle parts and plastic articles, besides cotton can be exported to Pakistan and to the Middle East through this trade route.

“It also makes sense to set up a dry port here under PPP mode,” said Raman Garg, a rice mill owner.

Earlier, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s bus ride to Pakistan and subsequent confidence building measures between the two governments had rekindled the hope for reopening of this border, however, the Kargil War and terrorist attack on Parliament followed by other subversive acts triggered from across the fence eclipsed the hopes.

“Since the past 53 years, we have been clamouring for the reopening of this trade route, but due to the hostilities and belligerent relations between the two neighbours, all our hopes have been dashed to the ground,” said Ashwani Mehta, head, Beopar Mandal.

Anurag Aeri, a hotelier, said, “After PM Modi had got the Kartarpur corridor opened, the reopening of this route should not be an uphill task for him.”

Earlier, the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations had also conducted a survey to explore reopening of this border. And the matter had been taken up in Parliament several times, but no headway has been achieved so far.

Even a lot of Indians used to travel to Lahore through this route. Old timers still recall the excitement of making rounds of Anarkali Bazaar, stroll at Jahangir’s mausoleum and visit to the food street. For them, the narrative, “jiss Lahore nahi dekhiya, oh jamia nahi” still holds true.

Last year, thousands of members of several kisan unions had held a rally near the border demanding the opening of the Hussainiwala route for trade and transit.

#Ferozepur #Lahore #Pakistan


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