New Delhi: After a three-day visit to the Kashmir Valley, a seven-member delegation has asked the government to compensate farmers for their losses owing to the unseasonal snowfall in early November and the communications blockade and travel restrictions imposed on the region by the Centre after its August 5 decision to read down Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution.
The delegation under the banner of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) included former MP Raju Shetty, social scientist and politician Yogendra Yadav and farm leader V.M. Singh. It was in the Valley for a period of three days last week and met farmers, representatives of the fruit growers’ association and members of the trading community to try and assess the loss suffered by farmers.
According to its assessment, the severe security clampdown post August 5 effected the transport industry and procurement markets just as the harvest season began. It said that farmers who grew pear, cherry and grapes suffered nearly a complete loss as their crop was left stranded due to the extraordinary security arrangements imposed by the Centre.
Apple growers suffered too as the communications blockade meant that communication between growers, transporters and traders was made nearly impossible. The restrictions on transport also hampered the procurement process.
“Farmers could not bring apples to the procurement markets since trucks were not allowed to go to the villages and farmers were forced to bring their produce to the Highways. This caused delays, inconvenience and additional costs,” a section of the AIKSCC report read.
It also said that the government’s announcement that NAFED would procure apples in the valley has not worked. “Lack of experience and infrastructure meant that NAFED has procured 0.01% of the estimated produce (1.36 lakh boxes out of more than 11 crore boxes). The farmers have complaints that NAFED procurement had disruptive effect since it has sold apple in the sale market at lower prices that brought down the wholesale apple prices in the procurement market,” it noted.
The heavy unseasonal snowfall that most of the Valley encountered on November 7 has been cited by the delegation as another reasons for the mounting losses of farmers. According to AIKSCC, farmers and farm organisations have reported over 80% losses in the regions of Shopian, Ramnagar, Kellar, Jamnagar, Sedaw and Mirpur.
The government’s own estimate says that about 35% of the 23,640 hectares of orchard land was damaged due to the snowfall.
Saffron crop was also impacted and according to the delegation’s report about a sixth of the crop could be damaged.
Overall, the delegation has said that according to representatives of commerce and industry, the apple industry alone could have suffered a loss of about Rs 7,000 crore due to the security clampdown in the state since August 5 and the unseasonal snowfall in early November,
It has recommended that the government declare the ‘apple crisis’ a ‘natural calamity’ eligible for the National disaster relief fund. The AIKSCC has also demanded that farmers be compensated for the loss suffered, including the long-term damage due to the damage caused to apple trees which take several years to bear fruit.