Bijbehara: The fate of much hyped and described as a game-changer for people associated with fruit trade, Satellite Fruit Mandi in Jablipora area of Bijbehara is on shaky grounds nine years after it was conceived and sanctioned.
Even if the satellite market becomes a reality, it will be drastically downsized, diluting the purpose it was conceived for in the first place. The Satellite Market was announced by former Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah led National Conference-Congress government in 2013. 422 Kanals of land were demarcated for the Mandi and it was to be completed with an expenditure of around Rs 35 crore. The Mandi’s proximity to NH-44 and the Bijbehara Railway station made it one of a kind market, which could have been the largest in Asia.
“It would have given the entire south Kashmir a huge platform to conduct business from and open the fruit market of Kashmir to new global avenues,” a source in the Horticulture department told Kashmir Reader.
He said that the Mandi was all set to have over a thousand shops, an administrative block, a grading and packaging centre among other facilities. Nine years down the line, however, the Planning and Marketing wing of the Horticulture department has returned the money of fruit traders, who had paid to book a shop at the Satellite Market.
“Most of us had paid Rs 2 lakh to book a shop at the Mandi,” a fruit trader from Bijbehara told Kashmir Reader. Now the P&M wing has issued demand drafts in their names and they have been told that a re-bidding process might be conducted in future.
Kashmir Reader talked to Director Planning and Marketing, Vishesh Mahajan, who said that the project remains stalled for now for various reasons.
“The foremost reason is the shrinking of the land demarcated for the market. When we set out to make a Satellite market, we had over 400 Kanals of land. In these years however, some land has been given to other departments shrinking the Mandi to just 290 Kanals,” Mahajan said.
He said that the department has been forced to think about scaling down the market, and bringing down the number of shops to around 300 instead of the proposed 1000 because of the space constraints now.
“We have returned their money and some of them might have moved to the court,” Mahajan said, “Also, some people, who had been paid compensation for their land have also moved to the court with their grievances.”
So, he said, the market for now hangs in balance and there needs to be some serious rethinking on its fate.
The fruit traders meanwhile are aghast and feel cheated. “We have been waiting, all our hopes pinned on this market,” a fruit trader from
Shopian told Kashmir Reader. He said that given the location of this Satellite market, it would have been the finest place to conduct business from, “But official apathy has ruined this golden opportunity.”