Local traders in Tamil-speaking Jaffna in North Sri Lanka have complained to the Mayor and Indian diplomats about the threat posed to their livelihood by itinerant Tamil-speaking Indian traders from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
“There are as many as 300 of these people roaming about in Jaffna Peninsula, selling saris, salwar kameez sets and a variety of fancy goods. They not only come on a tourist visa and indulge in business illegally, but also undercut local traders by selling their wares at much lower prices, accepting payment on instalment basis and operating on the principle: Buy Now, Pay Later,” R Jayasekaram, president of the Jaffna Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Express on Friday.
“They go to offices and tell women employees there that they can take the saris they want and pay on the next salary day. And a sari that costs LKR 2,000 in the market is being sold for LKR 1,300. Selling at a cheaper price is possible because the goods come in container loads to Colombo port,” Jayasekaram said.
These itinerant salesmen are not run-of-the-mill “couriers” called “kuruvis”, who smuggle in small amounts of goods as part of passenger baggage.
According to officials, they are part of a chain headed by big-time gang leaders who bring their wares in container loads. The leader of one of the biggest gangs is believed to be operating from Bengaluru.
“However, Jaffna traders would welcome Indian traders if they sold their goods to them on a wholesale basis and let them do the retailing. That way the locals too can make a living,” Jayasekaram said.
Following some incidents of violence, the itinerant traders have complained to Indian officials, only to be told that they could not expect any consular support if they were trading illegally after arriving on the island on tourist or visit visas.
Jaffna mayor Yogeswary Patkunarajah recently banned these illegal traders from occupying space in the Jaffna market.