Former Finance Minister Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari on Thursday said that there seems to be a deep-rooted conspiracy to destroy Kashmir’s main sources of the economy especially its horticulture sector which sustained the state’s economy in its most turbulent times.
“The dilapidated condition of Srinagar-Jammu National Highway coupled with a ban on movement of civilian traffic on this only connecting link between the Valley and rest of the country is a manifestation of some covert plot to give collective punishment to the people of Kashmir,” Bukhari observed.
The former minister said that the blockade of National Highway due to the lackadaisical approach of authorities has now become a casual affair.
“Every winter people are supposed to face the miseries due to the condition of National Highway especially in areas including Banihal, Ramban, Nashri, Batote, Amarchasma and Patnitop. The National Highway Authorities have failed in upgradation and widening of this road at these places despite its upkeep being handed over to it, long back,” Bukhari lamented.
He said no concrete or permanent solutions are found to make this highway an all-weather road connecting Kashmir with the rest of the country.
“With the result, not only commuters but the fruit, vegetable livestock laden trucks are halted for long durations which not only inflict miseries on people but prove detrimental to the state’s economy,” he remarked further.
The former minister said that on the one side government had promoted cold storage chains in Kashmir and on the other banned the movement on the highway which has hugely impacted the transportation of fruit from different places to the storage centers.
“Fruit being perishable item has a less shelf life. The orchardists are supposed to pay huge sums to keep their yield intact till it reaches to the markets across the country for sale during proper seasons,” he said and added that the refrigerated vans are not being allowed to ply on national highway for its size and primarily because of the decrepit condition of the road.
“Non-availability of such vans has also added to the miseries of the farmers and orchardists who want to have a saving in time and freight charges incurred on transportation of their yield to outside markets.”
Bukhari said in such a pathetic scenario, instead of providing a hassle-free movement to fruit-laden trucks, the government seems adamant that farmers and orchardists do not get optimum returns of their yield by not taking measures to resolve their grievances.
He said the fruit industry received a severe dent during the last few decades of turmoil and with its apathetic approach, the government seems hell-bent to destroy this sector completely.
“Over 70 percent population, directly and indirectly, earn their livelihood by adopting the practices in horticulture sector in Kashmir and this industry generates around Rs. 8000 crores income annually. This sector should have been the main focus of the government policies but alas the ground reality is totally opposite,” he opined.
The former minister observed that keeping in view the immense contribution of this prestigious sector the government should remove the bottlenecks in the process of modernization of this highly important sector of the state’s economy.