By: Ahmad Shabir
Bijbehara: Despite elapsing nine years since the foundation stone was laid, the administration has utterly failed to complete the much-hyped State-of-the-art fruit terminal in Bijbehara area of South Kashmir’s Anantnag district.
The project was announced by the NC-Congress bonhomie in the year 2013, saying that a satellite fruit market will be set up in Jablipora area of Bijbehara, bringing smiles on the faces of fruit growers and traders of southern region as they believed that the initiative will attract top fruit exporters from the country and their trade would flourish.
However, nine years have elapsed, but the project remains far from completion, thus leaving the growers and traders fuming.
Estimated at the cost of 35 crore rupees, the foundation stone for the fruit terminal was laid with much fanfare by the then chief minister, Omar Abdullah. Touted to be one of the biggest fruit markets of the country, 440 kanals of land were notified for the same.
The work on the project was started only a few months after being sanctioned but the project continues to drag on for nine years.
Many traders and fruit growers of Anantnag, one of the biggest apple producing districts, said that the non-serious attitude and approach of the authorities of horticulture marketing and planning wing has delayed the completion of the project.
Though the authorities even collected contributions of 1 lakh rupees from over 1000 growers and traders having applied for spaces but even then, these growers and traders said, the fruit terminal is nowhere near completion.
“Traders and growers who had applied for the space at the fruit market were asked to pay one lakh rupees each amounting to about 10 crore rupees. The slow pace of work on the construction of the project makes us believe that authorities are spending only the collected money from growers and traders on the construction of the same and that they don’t have any funds to complete the project,” said a grower, Abdul Rashid.
Besides the market yard, weighing bridge, 600 shops for traders, bank, administrative block, post office, cold storage facilities are the part of the project. But nine years after the construction on the same was started, it is only some fruit faddas (stalls) that have come up at the site.
The director, HMP, a few months ago had asked the association of fruit traders that the fruit market will be made functional this season suggesting them to construct makeshift offices for this year but the traders say that his assurance was again followed by silence.
“Harvesting season of the fruit has already begun and no word from HMP authorities on the functioning of the state of the fruit market forced most of the top traders to hire spaces at small Batengoo Mandi or set up local mandis in their respective areas like yesteryears,” said another grower and fruit trader , Ali Mohammad.
Traders appealed to the Lieutenant Governor led administration to look into why the project has been dragging for nine years.
“Lieutenant Governor must look into what led to nearly a long delay in the completion of the fruit terminal. If funds are the problem he must ensure release of funds so that the miseries of fruit growers end,” another grower, Arif Ahmad told Precious Kashmir.
Director, HPM, could not be reached for his version despite repeated attempts. However, another top official of the department, who is involved in the construction of the fruit market, cited many reasons for delay in the project.
“No doubt paucity of funds is the major reason for the project dragging on for nine years but the 2014 floods followed by unrest and then lock down also contributed to the delay,” the official said.