Stories of lives lost and maimed
SHOPIAN: Mudasir Ahmad Paul, a resident of Krawoora village in Shopian, cannot forget how he survived a fall from an apple tree while pruning it– the process of cutting unwanted braches.
Paul says that the branch he was standing on suddenly broke down and he fell on the ground, unconscious.
Farooq Ahmad, a fellow branch cutter, who was accompanying him recounts:
“He fell on the ground, unconscious and we thought he is dead. Then we saw that he was still breathing and tried to take him to hospital.”
As the orchard was located in far-flung hilly area, Farooq said, it took them more than 45 minutes to reach the road.
“Thank God after four months of treatment, he survived,” he said.
Pruning of apple trees is done after the apple harvest season, usually before the onset of winters. Experts say it is important for the health of apple trees and to prevent damage from snowfall. But it is a risky job, and like apple picking itself, it takes its toll.
In Shopian villages farmers recount dozens of instances where apple picking or pruning left people injured, maimed or dead on the job.
Abdul Ahad Malik, a 55-year-old resident of Trenz village, was not as lucky as Mudasir. Last year, he fell from a tree while picking apples and died on way to hospital. Villagers said that Malik tried to pick an apple beyond his reach while the branch he was standing on broke down.
Similarly, Muhammad Maqbool Dar from Pahnoo village died on spot after falling from an apple tree while pruning it.
Shahid Ahmad Wani, a resident of Kunsoo village, has been maimed from a fall during pruning last year.
Shahid’s father Abdul Rasheed said that despite his treatment, including two surgeries, Shahid is on bed rest with serious back injuries.
“I just pray to Allah that he may stand and walk again,” Rasheed said.
Farmers say pruning becomes more complicated and risky in cold weather.
“In times of chill and winds, it becomes hard to get a grab on the branches,” Jahangir Ahmad Lone, a resident of Amshipora said.
He said that while pruning fetches them good money, they get scares even in their sleep, “as they remember the scenes on the trees.”
Pruning is important to avoid snow damage to trees.
“In 2009, due to early snowfall, we were not able to do pruning, the heavy snowfall took a heavy toll on apple trees,” Ghulam Mohammad Naikoo, an orchardist said.
According to experts, it is also necessary for a good crop and long life of apple tree.
“Without trashing unwanted branches the trees would get dense and there are more chances of disease. The yield would be less, as well as there are apprehensions of more damage due to snow,” Gulzar Ahmad, a horticulture expert said.
However, the job is risky as one has to use both hands to cut down unwanted branches.
“One has to stand on a branch and cut the unwanted branches using both hands. You get no time to hold a branch for support.” Basharat Ahmad Dar, a resident of Pinjora village said.
Horticulture experts, on their part, suggest precautionary measures.
“They (orchardists) must first keep their safety in mind. Their life is more precious than the apple or job they are doing,” Gulzar Ahmad Khan, an expert said.
Muhammad Ramzan, another horticulture expert suggested using ladders while apple picking or pruning.
“They can also use ropes to tie the branches together so that precious lives are saved,” he said.
The trashed braches are usually used by orchardists as firewood for kitchens and to make charcoal for kangris (fire pots).