Unseasonal weather has destroyed apples in Kashmir and paddy in Jammu even as government promises to procure crops have rung hollow
Farmers in the Kashmir Valley and the Jammu region are suffering due to a host of reasons including unseasonal weather and administrative shutdown, a farmers’ body said on November 26, 2019.
A three-member delegation of the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Mahasangh (RKMM) visited 25 villages in the erstwhile state between November 21 and November 25.
They found that unseasonal snowfall on November 7 had wrought havoc in the Kashmir Valley. It led to the destruction of 25 to 50 per cent of the apple trees in the region.
In remote villages of Jammu, unseasonal rains damaged crops of basmati rice.
For the valley’s apple farmers, the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5 this year, resulting in a clampdown on all communication and transportation, also caused severe distress.
The RKMM demanded immediate intervention like waiving of farm loans, compensation due to unseasonal snowfall and rainfall and immediate procurement of apples by the Union government to help the farmers of Jammu and Kashmir.
“Even after more than two weeks, no government officials have travelled to Jammu and Kashmir to assess the damage and compensate the farmers,” Shiv Kumar Sharma alias Kakka Ji, the national convener of RKMM, who led the delegation, said.
He claimed that some farmers had not even received last year’s compensation for unseasonal snowfall.
The delegation found that government promises to procure apples had not materialised on the ground. Former Jammu and Kashmir governor Satyapal Mallik and Union Minister for Finance Nirmala Sitharaman had announced that the government would procure apples from each farmer through NAFED.
But nothing had happened on the ground.
“Only 309 trucks of apples out of a total 120,000 were procured,” Tanveer Ahmed Dar, state general secretary of RKMM, claimed.
“Also the price of one box of apples dipped to Rs 300 from Rs 800-1,000 and transportation cost also increased to double,” he added. One box of apples constitute 15 to 20 kilograms of the fruit.
After the abrogation of Article 370, a few truck drivers were shot dead by militants. This discouraged transporters from outside the valley to transport apples. It led to a sharp rise in the price of transportation.
“Before shutdown, the price of transportation of a box of apples was around Rs 70. This has now increased to Rs 150 for transportation from Kashmir to Delhi’s Azadpur Mandi,” Dar said.
Jammu’s paddy farmers have also suffered.
“The rate of basmati has fallen from Rs 4,500 per quintal last year to Rs 2,000 per quintal,” Amarjeet Singh, Jammu and Kashmir’s RKMM youth wing president said.
The delegation also pointed out at the step-motherly treatment given to Jammu and Kashmir farmers in comparison to other states.
“Unlike other states, Jammu and Kashmir farmers require two government officials as guarantors to take agriculture loans through Kisan Credit Card, which is highly discriminatory,” Kakka Ji said. “Hence, only those farmers can receive the loans who are on good terms with government officials or whose relatives or close friends are officials,” he added.
The delegation also pointed out that the thriving market of spurious pesticides in the Kashmir valley also increased the cost of production.
“Earlier, we used to have only two pesticides. But these days, we are spraying at least 18 pesticides which has increased input cost whereas the market price of apple is still the same as two decades ago,” Imtiyaz Khandey, a farmer from Kashmir, said.
“Even pesticides which are supplied through government agencies, prove spurious and there is no accountability,” he added.
Kakka Ji told reporters that the RKMM delegation will soon meet Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Narendra Singh Tomar, on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir’s farmers.
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