Furious over Horticulture department’s carelessness
Shopain: Apple growers in Shopian protested here Tuesday against the callous attitude of Horticulture Department alleging the department was in a slumber while illegal and sub-standard pesticides were on the rise.
A group of people of Fruit Growers and Zamindar Association alleged that the department was not checking the market, as sub-standard pesticides sellers were looting orchardists by selling sub-standard and mis-branded pesticides to them. “There are no prescribed rates on certain pesticides/fungicides, how can a common man know what is the actual rate of these pesticides?” President Zamindar Association, Mushtaq Ahmed Malik said, demanding a proper rate list of the pesticides.
“I recently bought one kilogram Super-Star fungicide of FILL Company for Rs 1400 and the same fungicide was sold for Rs 2000 per kilogram to a villager.”
“Why did they cheat him?” Malik lamented, believing that he is aware about the rates and brands but they cheated a man who did not know much about these things.
Demanding Horticulture Minister, Altaf Bukhari’s intervention and booking of violators as per law, Malik added that this was not just one example with a particular dealer, company or brand as others too were playing opportunists.
Recently, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had directed slapping of Public Safety Act (PSA) against the dealers found guilty of selling spurious pesticides, Malik wished that PSA should be slapped on the dealers found conclusively in adulteration or selling of spurious pesticides and fungicides in the state.
Association members questioned the very statement of the Chief Minister to book the guilty under PSA asking that no one has been arrested or booked yet.
Talking to Kashmir Reader, Fruit Growers and Zamindar Association’s General Secretary, Ghulam Hassan Malik said that if their demands were not soon met they would hit the streets.
“95 per cent of Shopian’s population is dependent on apple orchards; we don’t need any apple year to be celebrated or any ‘relief’ but funds must be spent on setting up of soil testing centre, market checking should be taken seriously and crop insurance should be introduced with effect,” Hassan said.
Ghulam Ahmad Mir, Vice President Fruit Growers and Farmers Association told Kashmir Reader that departments like Horticulture, Market checking squads are in deep slumber.
“They are paid agents of different companies. Where is their market checking squad, where are the rate lists of fungicides; shoddy companies are looting poor orchardists in broad day light with the help of corrupt officials,” Mir alleged.
Members of Association added that in January, the district administration seized 10 tonnes of Dove Mancozeb and orchardists were told that the said fungicide was substandard and failed the department tests. “It is shocking to see the same fungicide of the same company in the market being sold to orchardists,” they added.
They also complained that there wasn’t any soil testing lab for horticulture purposes in the district. “We dedicated 33 kannals of land for SKUAST Research Center at Pahnoo village and we were assured of setting up of a modern soil testing lab in the district but all what they said was but a huge lie,” they alleged.
Another member from the association, Manzoor Ahmad Naikoo told Kashmir reader that there was no fun of having crop insurance when it was not implemented on the ground.
“The fruits are on second stage, we want to do crop insurance but where are they? Are we supposed to do it after selling our fruits? Their claims are nothing but ridiculous statements,” Naikoo said.
Gulzar Ahmed Banday, an Orchardist told Kashmir Reader that after the September 2014, Department of Horticulture and Revenue Department conducted multiple surveys to his 12 kannals orchard which was completely damaged by floods but no compensation was given to him till this date.
“33 trees of my orchard were washed away in the flood but the department did not pay a penny despite tall claims and sanction of Rupees five thousand corers from central government on relief and rehabilitation after 2014 floods,” Banday said.
“Ironically they (authorities) take pesticides samples and the reports come after a year, till then the pesticide is again available in the market for sale and by the time the reports come the crops/fruits are already destroyed,” another member of the association alleged.
Chief Horticulture Officer Shopian, Abdul Hameed Bhat told Kashmir Reader that the law available to curb the sub-standard sellers was not strict and the department had a paucity of staffers. “The two enforcement officers are not capable to watch the whole district. We are doing our best to provide the best services to the orchardists,” he said.
He added that the approval of Soil Testing Lab, Crop Insurance and issuing of license to the dealers did not fall in his domain.
Pathologist and Junior Scientist at SKUAST, Dr Tariq Rasool suggests orchardists not to use pesticides, fungicides and nutrition sprays which do not have printed chemical composition on the pack. “There are many fungicides/pesticides open for sale in the market which do not have printed chemical composition – how do we know what is in the pack? Orchardists must avoid such sprays and call concerned authorities,” he added.