SHOPIAN, Sept 5: Although South Kashmir’s Shopian district contributes significantly to the economy of the State with its apple trade, the Fruit Mandi that was approved 13 years ago to improve the trading facilities remained incomplete due to an alleged official apathy.
In order to improve the trading facilities for apple crop, which is the mainstay of the district’s economy, Government in 2005 decided to build a state-of-the-art Fruit Mandi in Shopian and notified sprawling 4 acres of land for the purpose. However, the market is far from completion despite the lapse of 13 years.
The apple traders said they were disappointed due to an alleged unwillingness from the Government to improve trading facilities. They said they felt betrayed: “We were promised a satellite market with parking for hundreds of trucks, office for traders, residential quarters for workers, banking facility and accommodation for outside businessmen among others. Not to talk of that there is no electricity and drinking water in the Mandi”, Mushtaq Ahmad, a local grower said.
The traders said besides easing the trade, the market would have created jobs for hundreds of local youth. “The administrative apathy has wasted the whole project. This shows the attitude of the Government towards the development of horticulture sector in the State”, Ali Mohammad, another apple grower said adding the Mandi generates crores of rupees every year but sans facilities.
Castigating the Government over the selection of Mandi site for the market, the growers said: “It was constructed on banks of dangerous Romshi stream which can wash it away anytime. Besides, the construction on the stream embankments leads to its encroachment which in turns disturbs the ecology,” he said, adding despite competing with top markets of India to carry out the trade, the Mandi has not been equipped with any of the facilities.
An official, who has been associated with the project from the beginning, said the project received several blows. “The project was dented by three unrests in the Valley. The floods of 2014 also damaged it,” he said. He added: “It is a comprehensive project wherein all the facilities will be provided. It cannot be achieved overnight and takes time. Once finished, the people will realize what we have provided them.”
He, however, blamed Government when asked about the site of the Fruit Mandi. “The site was chosen by the Government itself as the market needed plenty of land which was not available elsewhere,” he said adding the place was vulnerable to floods and to save it, they constructed an 18 feet wall on the streamside, costing additional Rs 18 crores.
Deputy Commissioner Shopian, Owaise Ahmad, told Excelsior that the construction work is underway and they are expecting to complete it by the end of this year. “We are expecting to complete it in the current financial year,” he said, adding the transporters were using the facility for parking and other facilities would be also completed.
Besides these problems, lack of awareness and guidance on high yielding apple varieties and use of appropriate pesticides or insecticides is also a major issue in the area. The growers said they have to rely on the advice of shopkeepers who recommend different chemicals required for the health of the crop. “The officials never visit the orchards nor do they carry any inspection of the shopkeepers selling chemicals. They sell whatever they want. There is no regulation,” they added.