Despite being regularly visited by international businessmen and trade worth billions of rupees generated at Sopore Fruit Mandi, the inability of government to develop Asia’s second largest fruit mandi on modern lines has left both sellers and buyers high and dry.
According to traders, the mandi does not even have basic facilities like sanitation, drinking water and magdamized roads. “The drainage system is such that our goods get flooded during winters and are engulfed in dust during summers”, said Gh Nabi sheikh, a trader at Fruit mandi. “The roads in mandi get jammed due to lack of separate truck terminal. The infrastructure is very poor and we don’t have our offices at this place. All we have is sheds.”
Another trader said that the mandi may be Asia’s second largest fruit mandi in terms of area but in terms of development it stands nowhere.
Spread over 372 acres of land, the mandi is undoubtedly the biggest economic hub of Kashmir where thousands of people including farmers, sellers, buyers and growers earn their livelihood. The traders come not only from different parts of India but also from Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and other countries. The annual apple production of the Kashmir is 24 lakh metric tonnes which amounts to around 14 crore apple boxes. India’s 75% apple produce comes from Kashmir.
President Fruit Mandi Sopore, Fayaz Ahmad Malik said, “we are devoid of basic facilities here. Such is the apathy that we have arranged lighting facilities from our own sources to facilitate working of traders during night hours.” He said that traders suffer losses due to lack of cold storage as they are urged to sell their stock at cheaper rates. The development of this place is need of an hour, he asserted.
“Fruit mandi is our backbone and we are dependent on it. Government needs to act accordingly to strengthen it,” said Mohd Ramzan Lone, trader at Fruit mandi Sopore.
Bizarre it may sound, but it is true that the fruit mandi is cleaned just once a week. Being a crowded place, it is deprived of even the first aid facility. “We catch infections due to the dust from underdeveloped roads as we have to load trucks in this atmosphere”, said Shabir Ahmad, a labour.
According to the Assistant Grading Marketing officer, M S Chopan, more than 11 acres of land have been allotted for separate truck terminal which would solve the problem of traffic jam in the mandi. He said that Govt has recently launched a scheme for traders which would provide 50% subsidy both for transportation, fare and cold storage. About 700 shops have been allotted for traders but due to COVID19 we couldn’t bring it at ground level, he added.