Political parties demand end to highway halt of apple trucks

Men stand inside Srinagar's Fruit Mandi amid growers' protest against halting of fruit-laden trucks on National Highway.
Men stand inside Srinagar's Fruit Mandi amid growers' protest against halting of fruit-laden trucks on National Highway. Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

Srinagar: Various political parties in Jammu and Kashmir Monday demanded an end to the halt of apple trucks on the Srinagar-Jammu highway saying that it was damaging for the Kashmiri fruit growers.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti strongly criticised the government for the disruption in the movement of apple-laden trucks on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway. Talking to media persons, she said the apple trade was the backbone of Kashmir’s economy.

“It seems that efforts are being made to weaken the backbone,” Mufti said.

She demanded an end to the halting of apple trucks on the highway and sought a smooth passage for them.

National Conference (NC) General Secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar also expressed resentment over the halting of fruit-laden trucks on the highway saying that the unnecessary halts were causing huge losses to the fruit growers and traders involved in the horticulture sector.

Addressing a news conference at NC’s Nawa-e-Subha headquarters in Srinagar, Sagar said that transportation had become a major problem and that the government had failed to implement anything concrete in this regard.

“All the promises of the government have so far turned out to be a pipedream. So far, nothing substantial is being done to ensure the smooth movement of traffic on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway,” he said.

Ruing the unavailability of cold chain transportation in Kashmir, Sagar said that the government should introduce AC trucks for transportation as most of the produce that reaches the mandis was in bad shape.

“Market Intervention Scheme was aimed to address the problem of the fallen fruit and it was doing good. Unfortunately, MIS has been replaced by NABARD which is refusing to take the fallen fruit. The government also needs to take a call on this and attune the laws to the advantage of the people. Instead, they want apples directly from the trees at the same rates as were applicable for fallen fruits,” he said.

Peoples Conference (PC) Chairman Sajad Gani Lone said that the stranding of fruit-laden vehicles on the highway would raise questions and “the onus of convincing fruit growers that nothing is deliberate lies on the government of the day”.

Lone, in a series of tweets, said, “The stranding of fruit-laden vehicles in the context of an extremely hard policy during the last 3 years and total detachment from masses will raise questions.

“Horticulture is the heart of Kashmiri’s rural economy. The apple horticulturists are not asking for a dole or a government job. They are requesting an efficient transport system. This should be a matter of right in any civilised country.”

Senior PC leader Imran Reza Ansari said that the devastation inflicted upon the fruit growers appears to be a ploy by “internal saboteurs within the government” to instigate the farmers of Kashmir. “Mark my words, this will lead to economic devastation which portends of begetting a fresh wave of violence in Kashmir,” he said.

Meanwhile, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) held a protest demonstration outside Press Club Jammu over the prolonged delay in transportation of apple crops from Kashmir valley causing huge losses to apple crop traders and growers.

Addressing media persons during this protest, Aam Aadmi Party leaders said that the apple crop was the backbone of J&K and especially of Kashmir’s economy and timely transportation of the apple crop was a prerequisite for attaining monetary benefits of the apple crop as the apple was a perishable item and gets rotten if not transported timely.

“Presently, thousands and thousands of apple-laden trucks are stranded due to the closure of the highway, putting apple crop traders, growers, and truckers in a state of distress,” the leaders said.

They said that a huge quantity of apple crop is either getting damaged or is on the verge of damage due to delay in transportation of crop with traders and apple growers too were staging protests.

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