Bright sunny day to pluck wild mushrooms more opportune to Nara Nag’s people than elections

Bright sunny day to pluck wild mushrooms more opportune to Nara Nag’s people than elections

NARA NAG (GANDERBAL): A seasonal savoury could be the reason for decline in voting in Nara Nag area of Ganderbal, where many committed voters were hopeful of garnering 50 percent votes in favour of National Conference, a party that is supported by their pir and former MLA, Mian Altaf Ahmad.
Morchella, a flavoured spongy mushroom that emerges within conifer forests in this season in the mountains of Nara Nag, is a choice pick for the locals who collect the mushrooms and dry them before selling them to agents who export it to different states across India.
Abdul Aziz, a local, said that ‘gucchi’ grow best during the rains and thunderstorms and there was rain till yesterday. “This morning it being sunny, many locals and children ventured to the forests to try out their luck,” he said.
Locals say that some voted early in the morning and went to collect the mushrooms later while many bunked voting to reap them from the forests.
They added that this year the winter was harsh and the tourists are yet to throng this tourist place known for its very ancient temple and for being the base for treks to some high-altitude lakes, as well as for the high mountain, Mount Haramukh.
Aziz added that in absence of any vibrant tourism activity, a sunny day needs to be utilised to the maximum. Collecting Morchella makes good earnings for the poor, he said.
The locals said that apart from gucchi, they tap the neighbouring forests for other herbs and medicinal plants, even though these have been dwindling at a fast rate in the mountains around.
Riyaz Ahmad has been an ardent herb collector and also works as a cook in a Srinagar hotel at Khayyam Chowk. He says that Nara Nag is a place well known across the globe for being a scenic village that houses an ancient temple and high-altitude lakes, but the employment opportunities are limited and many people are dependent on the forests for dried gucchis that sell at about Rs 14,000 a kilogram, and other high-value medicinal herbs that fetch good price for the locals.
He said the mushrooms are not grown artificially and if the produce is less, the price may shoot up.
In his herb collection profession, Riyaz said that he is more worried about the dwindling of tripatri herb or Trillium govanianum, a herb in much demand for boosting natural sex hormones but one that has almost been wiped out from the forests around.
He said his reason for being back in his native village on Thursday was only to vote for the party of Mian sahab.
“He served our community with great zeal and we owe him lot. This time around we backed him again, but he should ensure that the village gets some sustainable economic activity to prosper,” Riyaz said.
“Herbs are dwindling and so are the tourists, with the situation around. For a poor person like me, I see only the boosting of dairy activity that could help the village,” he said. “We are still dependent on cattle and government support for cattle rearing in the village could have helped us a lot. Besides, we are dependent on oxen to plough our fields.”
Many villagers could be seen utilising the bright sunny day to plough their fields to sow maize, which is grown significantly around the village.
Riyaz said that agricultural activity does help generate some support for villagers and fodder for the cattle.
“Many have to move to the city to find jobs and so have I,” he said, adding that he pleaded with the election officer not to mark his finger with ink, but the officer did not listen to him.
“I scratched it to let it bleed profusely, as in the city we are taunted for voting. But there is strong reason for many of us to vote and we hope the village will garner 50 percent votes for the party this time,” he said.
However, the lone voting centre – established in a school – in Nara Nag had till noon polled only 190 votes out of the total 532 registered voters. In the 2014 elections, the area had polled more than 327 votes out of its 450 registered voters then.