SHOPIAN: Orchardists and apple growers in this South Kashmir district are furious at the government for delaying the assessment of losses caused by the November 3 snow in Shopian’s apple orchards. Officials from the Education Department, however, said that they will present their final report to the government within a week.
People from several areas allege that the government is putting their demands aside. They said that the orchardists incurred heavy losses in the snowfall but that after a week nobody ever talked about their losses. “For a week, there come interviews of officials and politicians in newspapers and on TV, but after that, nobody raised a single question about what the government is doing for orchardists,” said Muhammad Arif, an orchardist whose 20 Kanal orchard, he says, has suffered 90 percent damage due to the November 3 snowfall.
Orchardists are apprehensive that the government has forgotten them after the snowfall. “We are wholely and solely dependent on our appleorchards, and they are damaged now. If the government doesn’t provide us compensation, we will be like beggars,” said an orchard owner from Vehil area of the district.
The November 3 snow caused massive damage to apple orchards and standing fruit in the Valley in general and particularly in Shopian.
A group of orchardists from Turkwangam told Kashmir Reader that many officials from the Revenue and Horticulture deparments reached them and took stock of damages but till date the government has not cleared the air over whether orchardists who suffered losses will be compensated or not. “Government must announce whether they are giving any compensation or not. If not, then why should they consume our time and that of the officials in assessing the damages,” Jahangir Ahmad Lone, another resident of the area, said.
According tentative officials figures, 35 to 40 orchards were damaged in the district. “We had earlier submitted to the government a tentative report of damages and that said that around 40 percent damages were found. After completing the field assessment (orchard to orchard), we found that there would be some increase in the tentative figures,” an assistant-rank officer from the Shopian Horticulture Department told Kashmir Reader.
According to officials figures, district Shopian grows apple orchards on an area of 26,932 hectares of land and 95 percent of its population is directly dependent on horticulture for their livelihood. Scores of orchardists have taken crop loans from banks and financial institutions which they are yet to pay back.
“First the low rates for apples broke our backs, and now the natural clamity took more toll on our orchardists. We suffered a heavy loss of appletrees and we are apprehensive that there will be low production for many years due to the damages in the trees,” said Abdul Jabbar, an orchard owner from Imamsahib area, adding that many of their apple trees fell apart while scores of them have been repaired with ropes and nut and bolts. “But we had no option but to cut the majority of the branches of the trees that we repaired.”
Chief Horticulture Officer, Shopian, Abdul Hameed told Kashmir Reader that they will file the final report to the directorate with in a week. “We are working on the assessment process, and it’s almost complete. We took the help of the Revenue and the Rural Development departments in this process and are going to submit the final report to the government within a week or so,” Hameed added.