It really is a calamity
The damages that the untimely snowfall wreaked last week across the valley is huge. Not only was the horticulture and agriculture sector on the receiving end but the infrastructure too suffered a massive dent.
In various areas of south Kashmir dozens of villages are still reeling under total darkness as the power sector has suffered huge damages to transmission lines besides the towers carrying these transmission lines.
The story is no different on the farming side as well. The apple industry suffered massive loses which trade experts claim are more than 900 crore. Apart from this the future growth of the industry has also suffered as hundreds of orchards suffered massive damage resulting in damage to the crop, besides a reduced harvest in the years to come.
So far the government has not committed on providing any relief to the farmers or growers but the clamor for a bailout is gaining momentum with every passing day. The government though is still assessing the damage however, a long term policy to tackle such calamities needs to be worked out.
Right now the government should work out declaring the recent devastation of orchards across Kashmir, as calamity to pave way for enhanced compensation to the affected growers.
Horticulture industry is one of the major contributors to the economy of the state. The government therefore needs to work out a long term policy on the issue. The apple needs to be brought under category of perennial crop so that a special compensation can be provided to get the growers back into the trade with a fresh zeal and enthusiasm.
Notably, under the existing state disaster response fund (SDRF) and national disaster response fund (NDRF) norms, the growers are eligible to compensation in the range of Rs 6,800 to Rs 18,000 under different categories for per-hectare of land for different variety of crops, including perennial.
However, this won’t be even fitting into the proverbial ‘peanuts compensation’ slogan. Kashmir has around 1,44,825 hectare land under apple cultivation. While the horticulture department has maintained that orchards across the Valley suffered damage during last week’s snowfall, it has said the exact quantum of damage would be known only after getting reports from all districts within a week’s time.
However, preliminary surveys have pointed out that the damage is around 40 percent across the board and it is high time that the government steps in and announces the last weeks tragedy as a natural calamity.
On an average the annual apple production in Kashmir is 17 lakh metric ton. As per economic survey report of 2017, apples worth Rs 6,500 crore were exported from the Valley to other states.
This makes the industry one of the topmost sectors contributing towards the growth of the state and also generating employment avenues for the young and the old for almost the whole year. This sector cannot be ignored and the government needs to think likewise.