Traders and Apni Party activists on Tuesday staged separate protests against the proposed opening of 100 Reliance retail stores in Jammu, a claim which the company said is “completely untrue”.
The protest was staged a day ahead of the strike called by the Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industries (JCCI) over various issues including the opening of a chain of Reliance stores, evoking widespread support from opposition parties, lawyers, and various social groups.
The Jammu transporters, however, said they would not join the day-long September 22 strike.
Amid the ongoing protest over the purported opening of the Reliance retail stores’ chain over the past many days, the company on Tuesday said, “The talk of 100 stores being opened by us (in Jammu) is completely untrue.”
“We have not opened any stores in Jammu. We have a few delivery points in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and these are set up by our delivery partners to support the small traders,” a spokesperson of the Reliance Retail told news agency PTI.
The Reliance said it has a long track record of supporting small traders and that they “remain steadfast in our commitment of partnering with small merchants”.
The spokesperson was responding to a question about the protest demonstrations by traders and several other groups in Jammu over the past couple of days against setting up a Reliance retail stores chain.
Earlier, the JCCI alleged that businessmen in Jammu are facing the “highest degree of discrimination” due to the “directionless policies” of the Union Territory government like ending the age-old biannual Darbar move, new excise and the Geology and Mining Department policies, proposed move by big business houses like Reliance to open stores and restrictions on banquet halls, among other issues.
A group of traders under the banner of Warehouse Traders Federation staged a peaceful protest at Nehru Market in Jammu against the purported plan to open the Reliance smart stores.
Federation president Deepak Gupta, on the occasion, said all shopkeepers will observe a complete strike on Wednesday to convey a message to the government that they “are not happy with the policy decision taken in closed rooms without consulting the stakeholders”.
Activists of the Apni Party, which had already extended its support to the strike call, also staged a demonstration at the Gandhi Nagar market against the proposed opening of Reliance stores.
The protest was held by the Apni Trade Union and it concluded peacefully, officials said.
The Congress, National Conference, and the Peoples Democratic Party have already extended their support to the bandh call.
J&K Congress spokesperson Ravinder Sharma said the party fully supports the bandh call on the burning issues which is bound to wipe out small and middle-class traders.
Jammu wing of J&K High Court Bar Association president MK Bhardwaj also extended support to the strike and said, “The people of Jammu are united on all issues which affect the common man.
“We will not tolerate injustice and discrimination with the Jammu region and continue peaceful agitation to safeguard the interests of the people,” MK Bhardwaj told reporters.
He hoped that Lt Governor Manoj Sinha and his administration will take note of the problems being faced by lawyers, traders, businessmen, farmers, unemployed youths besides the civic and infrastructural deficiencies in the Jammu region and address the same to make life easier for the people.
The National Conference also extended its support to the strike and said the party has all along stood for safeguarding the interests of Jammu and Kashmir and will continue to do so with a sense of commitment.
“The administration will see reason in its anti-business and anti-poor policies and take corrective measures, rather than coming up with move after move that hurt the overall interests of the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” the party said in a statement.
It also urged the J&K administration to roll back the decisions, which, it said, are against the legitimate interests of trade and commerce.