Orchard Masscares: Can Government Ensure Adequate Supply Of Certain Basics Quickly?

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SRINAGAR: With the mournings over, the apple growers have jumped to rescue their orchards and repairs the damaged trees. But the crisis is the non-availability of certain key elements which are quickly required in huge quantity, insiders in the apple sector said.

A photograph showing the loss in a north Kashmir apple orchard because of snowfall on November 3, 2018. KL image: Faheem Mir

“We are in desperate requirement of certain key basics,” Abdul Rouf, one of the apple growers from Shopian said. “It includes the Chaubattia solution, the 10-inch nuts and bolts, the hole driller and a lot of jute ropes.”

The market was exhausted within the first 24 hours and there are reports of over-charging as well, insiders said.

Barring one item – the solution, all other items are usually not required in such a huge quantity. But the abrupt snowfall has triggered a massive demand for all these items. “The markets do not hold so much of these items in stick and there is a crisis of supply,” Shabir Ahmad, one grower said. “Somebody must encourage the market to ensure a supply that is required.”

The 5-inch snowfall being wet and untimely has led to the collapse of the orchards, especially the trees, which are older and bigger. In most of the cases, the trunk of the trees has split into two and four branches and requires immediate repairs so that they are able to regrow. The solution is required to keep the rot away.

These are the key items immediate required by the apple farmers. But all these items are in short supply and wherever available, selling prices have surged. KL Image: Shuaib Wani

The snowfall has triggered a serious crisis and the estimation is too huge. Though the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry has estimated the losses at Rs 500 crores, reports suggest it could be much more. Most of the traditional orchards have suffered extensive damage. Though authorities have announced an immediate survey, the details of the official estimate are not known.

Omar’s Concerns

Meanwhile, National Conference vice president and MLA Beerwah. Omar Abdullah has expressed concern over the lacklustre approach of the incumbent administration to mitigate the problems of the people of Beerwah in wake of the recent snowfall.

He said that the ill-timed snowfall has increased the woes of people especially the farmers and orchardists. “The incessant snowfall has played havoc with the standing crops of maize adding to the miseries of marginalized farmers. The orchardists too have suffered immensely due to the untimely snowfall. What is aggravating the already miserable farmers is the laid-back attitude of the administration,” he said.

Vice president said that the few inches of snowfall revealed the unpreparedness of the incumbent administration.

“The exigencies following the snowfall should have been addressed to on war footing. Many interior roads of Beerwah haven’t been cleared of snow as of now. Many villages in my constituency are still reeling under darkness. Electricity hasn’t been restored in many hamlets. The primary and the tertiary health care systems are also at the receiving end. The attendance of the staff is dismal in the hospitals,” he said.

Omar said that many hamlets in the Beerwah constituency are suffering from scarcity of drinking water. “It seems that the incumbent administration is deliberately discriminating against Beerwah. The administration is yet to accesses the losses to the farmers and orchardists,” he said.

A grower visiting his devastated apple orchard in south Kashmir. The November 3, 2018 snowfall has run riot with the apple orchards across Kashmir. KL Image: Shah Hilal

Vice president implored upon the Governor administration to ensure the speedy restoration of road connectivity in Beerwah at an earliest. He impressed upon the incumbent administration to depute revenue teams to accesses the losses of the farmers of the Beerwah constituency.

“The farmers should be compensated adequately before the onset of harsh winters. The administration should see to it that the material losses are compensated before the onset of harsh winters,” he said.

He impressed upon the district administration to ensure that all basic amenities are accessible to the general public in Beerwah and the erring officers are reprimanded for any slothfulness in executing their jobs.

PDP Demands

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has demanded loan waiver for the fruit growers in Kashmir, stating that the orchardists have suffered irreparable losses due to recent unseasonal snowfall and drastic change in weather pattern.

In a statement issued here, PDP Vice President Abdul Rahman Veeri stated that the damage caused to Kashmir’s orchardists due to recent snowfall is dreadful and is set to prove calamitous to Kashmir’s fruit industry for atleast next decade.

Demanding complete loan waiver on all agricultural loans including KCC from the government, Veeri said the issue merits government’s immediate concern and substantial action on ground.

Veeri added that  as Jammu and Kashmir is an agricultural state and 80 percent of population is dependent on this sector, government must focus its attention towards it and take measures needed to combat the recent looses that are estimated to be more than a whooping Rs 1000 crore.

The PDP Vice President stated that besides waiving off KCC loans, implementation of recommendations of National Commission for Farmers/Crop insurance scheme, there is a need for the restoration of subsidies, expansion of public procurement system and creation of calamity funds to assist farmers affected by crop losses.

Veeri said the horticulture industry provides livelihoods to 30 percent of and Kashmir’s 12 million population and if the government turns blind eye towards the hardships being faced by the growers, the farm losses would hit the state hard in future.

He urged upon the Governor administration to issue orders for the waiving off  of the loans to the affected growers so that they could heave a sigh of relief from miserable conditions they are living in at present.

PDP Chief Spokesperson Rafi Ahmad Mir has urged the Centre and the state government to formulate a suitable horticulture policy for J&K with a protective cover for orchardists and implement them in earnest to rescue the orchardists from the debt trap and to save their lives. He said, noting with regret, thousands of orchardists have been affected due to untimely snowfall and these orchards being the only source of income for the orchardists, they will fall apart if the government won’t immediately intervene”.

He said that already the majority of the orchardists are in the debt trap as successive years have been of bad crop and there was no way out for them in absence of a viable and concrete support from the government. “ Kashmir horticulture industry has been battling weather vagaries and the input costs are soaring all the time high.Snowfall and hailstorms ravage the crops and there is no relief for our orchardists,” Mir complained. Unfortunately, the governments were washing their hands off by announcing formulation of policies and little was being done to address the problems afflicting the sector. The PDP Chief Spokesperson said that PDP during its tenure in the government, initiated formulation of a comprehensive horticulture policy including a protective insurance cover for growers, but with untimely fall of the government, the fate of that policy is unknown.

Stating that the state government should immediately announce a minimum support price for market intervention, he suggested that the state government should announce incentives of waiver of loans, the establishment of a responsive and user-friendly helpline for orchardists and a crop insurance policy should be reformulated to see that each orchardist who loses crop gets the insurance. He said many states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, and Punjab have wholeheartedly supported the farmers in times of distress without going into financial implications, why cannot the J&K Government lend a helping hand to our orchardists who have no other source of income? When the Punjab government can make market intervention to support their farmers, by announcing a support price for potato crop, why cannot J&K government intervene on similar model for our apples?, he asked.

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