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Bharat bandh: Kashmir fruit mandis remain shut, growers demand farm laws rollback

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Srinagar: Fruit mandis across the valley remained shut on Tuesday to express solidarity with the protesting farmers of the country.

Farmers had called for Bharat Bandh on Wednesday to pressure central government to roll back the recently passed farm bills.

 

Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers Cum Dealers Association, an umbrella group of all fruit associations had called for the closure of all fruit mandis on December 8 in support of the framers protesting against the new farm laws.

More than 12 mandis including Fruit Marketing Complex, Parimpora Srinagar, Sopore, Baramulla, Kupwara, Handwara, Shopian, Pulwama, Kulgam, Anantnag, Jablipora, Pachahar, Chari-e-Sharief, and Ganderbal remained closed.

Asia’s largest fruit mandi at Sopore wore a deserted look. All shops and offices remained shut. No loading, unloading, or trading took place in the fruit mandis on Wednesday.

 President North Kashmir Apple Growers Association Fayaz Ahmad Malik said they have extended full support to the protesting farmers.

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Photo by KM/Umar Ganie

“We support the bandh call of farmers. We suspended our business activities in Sopore fruit mandi. We are with the farmers in this fight against new laws,” he said.

Malik said the central government should take into consideration the concerns and sentiments of farmers and roll back farm laws.

Normally more than 200 trucks loaded with apple leave for various fruit markets of the country from Sopore Mandi every day.

No trading took place in the second-biggest fruit mandi in Parimpora. “All fruit growers and traders stayed home in solidarity with the farmers. We completely support the strike call given by the kisans. Not a single truck loaded with apples left for outside valley markets,” said chairman Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers Cum Dealers Association Bashir Ahmad Bashir.

Post abrogation of Article 370, Kashmir fruit growers suffered huge losses due to communication blockade and restrictions. Thousands of tonnes of fruit rot in the orchards as these could not be transported to mandis.

Despite that, Kashmiri fruit growers extended full support to the kisan agitation and demanded the rollback of new farm laws.  “Farm bills are completely against the sentiments of the valley-based fruit/vegetable growers. We all should come in support of the farmers. These laws should be rolled back,” said Basheer.

Horticulture is the mainstay of Kashmir’s economy with seven lakh families directly and indirectly associated with the sector. Horticulture contributes seven percent to the Gross State Domestic Product of Jammu and Kashmir.

More than 3.38 lakh hectares of land is under fruit cultivation in the valley. Of which 1.62 lakh hectares is under apple cultivation.   IN 2018-19 the fruit production including dry fruits has touched 24.15 lakh tonnes compared to 23.30 lakh tonnes in 2017-18.

In south Kashmir, all the four mandis remained shut in solidarity with the protesting farmers.

“The mandi remained shut. Truckers, laborers, and dealers were already conveyed to not to visit mandi on Tuesday,” said Riyaz Ahmad, an apple grower at Shopian fruit mandi.

Kashmir apple growers followed the Bandh call in letter and spirit and did not load or dispatch fruits to outside markets.

“We kept our packed apple in our stores and did not carry out the loading process today. We too belong to the farming community and stand with our counterparts,” said Mohammad Akbar, a fruit grower from Baramulla.