Lawmaker says, ‘I’m Helpless to Stop Illegal Saffron Soil Cutting’

KL NEWS NETWORK

SRINAGAR

Resentment is brewing among vast majority of Saffron cultivators given the fact that government has completely failed to curb those elements who resort to illegal soil cutting during the night hours in Saffron fields of South Kashmir’s Pampore town of Pulwama district.

The saffron cultivators who are mulling to take to roads against the illegal practice told CNS that some ‘greedy’ Saffron growers who are hand in glove with some administration officials are hell bent to destroy the Saffron industry in Kashmir for their petty gains.

“Soil cutting in Saffron fields is going on in Chandhara, Galandar and especially in Putil Bagh on large scale. These saffron fields are turning into barren lands now. Scores of JCBs and tippers could be seen busy in soil cutting and ferrying it to other places without any fear in broad day light,” said the worried cultivators adding that saffron fields are under big threat as “government is not serious” to initiate action against the elements who have vested interests.

They alleged that some ‘greedy’ Saffron growers after looting state exchequer by getting major compensation for loss of Saffron crop are now busy in minting money by providing soil to the industrialists.

“3,785 hectares of saffron growing areas was covered under the National Saffron Mission (NSM) in the State. The Government of India provided compensation and relief to the Saffron growers after they suffered damages due to floods. Even after getting compensation, some ‘greedy’ saffron growers are hell bent to destroy this age old industry,” they said and alleged that those involved in this illegal trade practice have been enjoying the patronage of some police and administrative officials.

The Saffron cultivators while holding the government responsible for the mess said that in the year 2013, the soil used for land filling for multi-million rupees highway project was extracted from the saffron fields illegally. “Only the soil cutting is not an issue but the active land mafia is purchasing cultivable saffron land on higher rates and later turns the same land into residential colonies. State government itself converted acres of saffron land into government offices and joinery mills even before the militancy broke out,” they said adding that during militancy, the government forces converted part of fields into garrisons.

The Government figures reveal that in last decade almost 20 per cent Saffron fields of Pampore have been converted into residential plots. “Pampore is now a safe haven for land mafia. Nobody is there to stop them from turning saffron land into concrete jungle. Even the illegal practice of soil cutting is not stopped,” they said.

The irony is that PDP lawmaker representing Pampore assembly constituency Zahoor Ahmed Mir says he is “helpless”.

“What can I tell you it is a big mafia. Police and administration are hand in glove. Even top officials take bribe from the elements who resort to illegal soil cutting,” Mir said.

Mir added that he was shocked to learn that an official after seizing some tippers ferrying Saffron soil released them on spot after the “drivers greased his palm”. “I tried hard to save this industry but failed to persuade ‘corrupt’ officials,” he said.

Assistant Commissioner Revenue Pulwama, Sajad Ahmed said, “during in a recent meeting I ‘grilled Tehsildar Pampore’ and directed him to take stringent action against the culprits and I was informed that they have already booked number of persons involved in this illegal practice,” he said.

Station House Officer Pampore Raja Tasleem said that whenever they spot any illegal activity they seize they vehicle and arrest the culprit without any delay.

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