In 2015 DilshadaBano, 45 from Batwina, Ganderbal decided to grow flowers on a commercial scale on her and convinced her husband relatives to convert six kanals of paddy land into flower growing beds.
The risk paid off and Dilshada found huge demand for flowers. She wisely picked two specific flowers called Gerbera and Carnation, which are in high demand in the market. At the height of her work, she used to send approximately 800 bundles of flower spikes to Srinagar every month which later were distributed to the respective markets and hotels for their good demand.
The income far exceeded than the usual rice crop. She was an inspiration for the other farmers who too were mulling to become floriculturists. But the success proved short lived and in August 2019 when everything came to a standstill, the flower fields slowly turned from bright orange and pink into graveyard of wilted flowers. A hope of normalcy dragged on and ultimately was dashed when the COVID lockdown was imposed all over the country.
Dilshada who once started the business with a passion nowadays feels dejected. “This was all I did the entire day. I would forget my household chores when I was in the company of flowers. I used to come back home from the field at 8 pm.”
Carnation also called Clove Pink is native to the Mediterranean area while as Gerbera commonly known as African Daisy is native to South Africa and South America. The two flower species grew in Dilshada’s vast field under her constant watch and hard work.
From weekly supply of flowers to zero production Dilshada’s life has come full circle. Since the last two years, her business has shrunk so much that she and her husband have been moving from pillar to post for financial help.
Her supportive husband Ali Mohd Mir would always help her in the work. “We could see the business booming and were to tell everybody in the neighbourhood to dedicate their fields to the flower production but as soon as the lockdown was declared one after another, our life was crippled.”
On the six kanals of their land there are five large scale greenhouses where the flowers used to grow in controlled conditions. Adding to her miseries, two of the greenhouses were destroyed during harsh winter and the three others are empty, bearing testimony to their glory days.
Heartbroken Dilshada said that she had to throw away thousands of flowers for months because of the lockdowns. The flower production needs quick service because their shelf life is shorter and cannot be dumped or preserved for days. Dilshada and her family had an estimated loss of Rs 35 lakhs.
The family is financially broke and is unable to restart their business. “We want to resume our work but have nothing in pockets right now. We wanted district authority to intervene and help us with some incentives. We have written applications to them multiple times and are still waiting for a reply,” he said.
On talking to Greater Kashmir, Floriculture officer Ganderbal, Tariq Habib said “we have taken a note and have already given a report of an estimated loss to the higher authorities. I am making sure that the grower is given proper compensation. We decided to give them the relief of 1000 rupees per month for a period of three months among which the relief for the first month has already been disbursed”.
Tariq added that a “Revival Scheme” has been launched lately and assured that growers would be helped in every possible way.
Dilshada’s decision of converting her six kanals of rice paddy land into flower cultivation lies barren in front of her eyes for two years now. Unable to afford, Dilshada says she fears to start the entire process again and benefit from it as much as pre lockdown production.
The farmers in general and Floriculturists in particular are now pinning hopes on the government for their support and positive intervention to help them fix what was already on the edge.