Lone district in valley where compensation still not given
SHOPIAN: The Shopian Horticulture Department is yet to compute the losses caused by the November 3 snowfall in the valley, with officials from the department saying that it will take one more week to complete the assessment of the losses incurred. The Deputy Commissioner, however, said that the district administration has started paying compensation to the orchardists and that 90 percent of the assessment is complete.
The devastating November 3 snowfall caused havoc among the valley’s orchardists in general, but Shopian was its worse victim, where lakhs of apple, cherry and pear trees either sustained heavy damages or got uprooted. After the snowfall, the state government started loss assessment, but because the Shopian Horticulture Department started damage assessment in coordination with the Revenue and other departments, it is yet to complete the final figures of losses.
Meanwhile, orchardists and fruit growers in the district said that the government had made a general assessment, bringing all the orchardists under its list but ignoring those who had not sustained any damage. “The government completed the assessment and paid the compensation to orchardists in other districts, but Shopian is the lone district where compensation was not given because, ironically, they have not completed the assessment yet,” said Farooq Ahmad, an orchardist from Imamsahib area.
Other orchardists in the district said that the government should not have brought all the orchardists under the list because due to that those who deserve compensation have got affected. “They (the officals) told us that they will make a report of it all and the highest amount of compensation will be Rs 36,000. But the losses of some orchards are much higher at several places,” said Shahid Ahmad Thoker, an orchardist from Pinjora area, adding that it will be an injustice for apple growers if all people were paid the same amount.
Despite repeated attempts to get comments and figures of losses from Chief Horticulture Officer, Shopian, Abdul Hameed Bhat, this reporter failed to get a response since the officer either switched off his phone or feigned ignorance and dropped the calls. However an official from the Horticulture Department said that there were misunderstandings in some reports that compelled the department to do the assessment twice. He added that it will take them one more week to finalise the total figures of losses in the district. “As per SDRF laws, only those who have losses of more than 30 percent will be compensated and those have losses of more than 40 percent would be brought under the category of 40 percent,” he said adding that the minimum compensation amount will be Rs 4,000.
This is the fifth consecutive occasion since December that this reporter was told by Horticulture Department officials that it would take a week’s time to complete the assessment of the orchards’ loses.
Shopian district, where 95 percent of the population is directly dependent on apple cultivation, has been ignored by the government, say the district’s residents.
Orchardists also allege that at many places an official deputed by the government visited a couple of orchards and took the figures of the rest of the area either from neighbours or from village elders. This, according to them, is against the law and is why, they feel, the government is going to give an eyewash instead of compensation to people who sustained heavy losses due to the snow.
Javid Ahmad Khan, an orchardist from Shopian, said that there are many such instances where officals recorded the losses of a family separately in the name of the family head and his sons, but an equal portion of land and damaged trees were recorded as belonging to different family members. This, he said, is in brazen violation of the law and it is because of this that the truly deserving are being neglected.
Deputy Commissioner, Shopian, Owais Ahmad told Kashmir Reader that 90 percent of the assessment process has been complete in the district. He said that allegations and counter-allegations are part of the process of compensation in the aftermath of a natural calamity and added that the government has started paying the orchardists their compensation.