How a grower’s exposure embarrassed government as CM watched

Chief Minister with Qayoom Wani, a Shopian apple grower. KL Image Mehraj Bhat

KL News Network

SRINAGAR

Presiding over the weekend function to launch dream high density apple plantation scheme, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti asked growers to ask questions so that government responds. After a couple of slightly longish speeches by apple growers about the political of horticulture development, a grower was so keen to intervene.

“I am Qayoom Wani from Herman,” he introduced himself. “A few years ago, the horticulture department asked me to clear my five kanals orchard off old trees and get it ready for new plants, the high density ones. Once it was over, I approached them again and they said I should invest Rs 5 lakh and when it is done, they will pay the subsidy.”

His question was: “I undid the main orchard that hit my income. And then they wanted me to arrange Rs 5 lakh for re-plantation and once that is done, they will pay be the subsidy. Where from could I have arranged five lakh rupees? I abandoned the project. Send some official he will find this land abandoned. You made me poorer.”

With Mohammad Hussain Malik, secretary horticulture holding the podium, it was pretty embarrassing. There were no answers from the government to satisfy him.

Finally, Chief Minister summoned Wani, reported to be ruling party activist, to the podium and directed the horticulture department to take his care on priority.

Growers who intervened in the function were clear in their statements that the government is not investing enough in the horticulture sector despite it being the prime mover of the peripheral economy of the state. “My father invested three lakh rupees in seventies to create an orchard and his friend invested same amount in creating a hotel,” one well-meaning grower said. “Today he is selling his hotel at Rs 22 crore and I am here to learn how to axe my orchard and started afresh.”

Another grower was clear in asserting that the apple growers are not so desperate for support. “Please show us the way,” one of them said, “We will help ourselves.” He said the horticulture in Kashmir was so huge that it can employ people from other states because it is labour intensive.

The growers were desperate to seek an answer for why the government is playing a spoilsport by not managing its responsibilities well. The prime concern was the spurious pesticides, which, they insisted are the prime reason for crop failure and loss. It was on this insistence that the Chief Minister directed the police to invoke PSA against the dealers who sell sub-standard pesticides.

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