Srinagar, Feb 10: Senior vice-president Peopleâ€™s Conference (PC) and former minister Abdul Gani Vakil on Wednesday said thatÂ theÂ fruit industry in Kashmir is at the verge of collapse as the government hasÂ â€œignored it at the ground level.â€
Addressing a party convention in Nowpora Kalan Sopore, Vakil saidÂ that theÂ fruit growers in Kashmir are facing acute hardships as the administration has side-lined their demands.
â€œAlthough after the abrogation of Article 370, the Government of India had made big promises that the apple industry in Kashmir would be boosted through special packages but it had remained restricted to statements only,â€ Vakil said.
Vakil alleged thatÂ tillÂ now,Â no such packageÂ has been announced for the fruit growers. â€œEven in the recentÂ UnionÂ Budget, there was nothing for the distressed fruit growers of the valley. Most of the growers are strugglingÂ toÂ pay their taxesÂ andÂ loans. TheÂ fruit industry,Â which was once the backbone of J&Kâ€™s economy,Â isÂ nowÂ at the verge of extinction,â€ Vakil added.Â
While expressing his anguish over the â€˜illegalâ€™ import of Iranian apples from Afghanistan to various fruit markets in the country, he saidÂ thatÂ such attempts are aimed to discourage fruit growers in Kashmir.Â
â€œIt seems GOI is preferring foreign apples over Kashmiri apples. Even at the present,Â the valley is facing a shortage of cold stores where fruit growers could have stored their produce,â€Â he said.
Vakil urgedÂ theÂ UT Government and Union Horticulture Ministry to intervene in the matter, so that valley-based growers would not be discouraged.Â â€œKashmir has potential for mass storage of apples but the government is not taking it seriously,â€ he said.
VakilÂ added,Â â€œIt is unfortunate that such a big industry has been neglected, as till date that there is no well-equipped juice factory in Kashmir and even there is no cold storage facility available in Asiaâ€™sÂ secnd largest fruit mandi of Sopore.â€Â He stressed that there should be enough cold storage facilities for the apple growers and establishing well equipped juice factories is the need of the hour so that the fruit growers and the industry will get highly boosted.Â
Vakil urgedÂ theÂ government to announce a special package for the fruit growers in Kashmir and demanded to waive off KCC and other loans as it can bring relief to the community who have suffered heavy losses due to COVID 19 lockdown and frequent closure of national highways.
Besides others who addressed the convention includedÂ Political Secretary PC Mohammad Sulaiman Bhat, Constituency Head Tariq Ahmad Mir, Sr Peopleâ€™s Conference leader Advocate Mehraj Din Tawheedi, President Women wing Advocate Rukaya Jan and several others.