Srinagar: Terming the government announced compensation to the fruit growers who suffered huge damages in recent heavy snowfall as a ‘cruel joke’, former finance minister Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari on Monday said the compensation must be revised and should commensurate with the magnitude of damages suffered by the growers.
Mr Bukhari said that the horticulture sector in Kashmir suffered losses to the tune of hundreds of crores on account of heavy snowfall in November 2019 coupled with frequent closure of Srinagar-Jammu national highway. “Due to November 2019 untimely snowfall around 70 percent to 90 percent trees carrying un-plucked crop collapsed and around 40 to 60 percent of crop producing fruit trees were uprooted. Now paying Rs 900 per Kanal to the fruit growers, as announced by the government, is akin to rubbing slat into their wounds,” Mr Bukhari said in a statement issued here on Monday.
Quoting experts, Mr Bukhari said that the fresh plantation of fruit trees in such damaged orchards will take at least 10 to 15 years to yield and produce new crop. He added that the assessment of loss suffered by the fruit growers must not be confined to the current year but the fruit growers and dealers associated with the industry will have to bear this loss for next 15 years till newly planted trees yield fruit.
“We all know that fruit industry is considered to be the backbone of J&K’s economy. However, the hostile climatic conditions shattered all the expectations of this industry resulting into huge losses to growers, most of whom have lost their livelihood,” he remarked.
Mr Bukhari said the fruit growers and dealers had taken huge loans from banks with the hope that after completion of the season they shall be able to liquidate their loans. “The fruit growers were expecting a generous package from the government as compensation for their losses as was assured by the government itself. However, the peanuts offered by the government this time have disappointed lacs of families associated with this industry directly or indirectly,” Mr Bukhari said.
He said the compensation offered to fruit growers must be revised and should commensurate with the magnitude of damages suffered by the growers. “The government must keep into consideration the damages suffered by the fruit growers which were unprecedented this year and revise its compensation accordingly,” he demanded.
Mr Bukhari also demanded one time waiver of KCC loans to provide some relief to the farmers and fruit growers of Jammu and Kashmir.
Similarly, he said that in Jammu region, the farmers suffered heavy losses due to untimely rains due to which paddy/Basmati crop was damaged. “The farmers of Jammu region have been crying for compensation, but nobody in the government seems paying any heed to their pleas,” he observed. .
The former finance minister said that the losses suffered by the farmers and fruit growers in Jammu and Kashmir must be re-assessed and the compensation be paid as per national natural calamity norms.