Hardly any flood-hit orchards helped with GoI’s Rs 122 crore
Srinagar, Feb 05: Horticulture Department has hardly restored any of the 2014 flood-damaged horticulture areas in Kashmir with more than Rs 122 crore it received from New Delhi.
In 2015, the government of India announced Rs 80,000 crore ‘Prime Minister’s Development Package’ for J&K.
About Rs 450 crore from it was sanctioned for restoration of the flood-affected orchards and overall development of the horticulture sector.
Official documents, however, revealed that until November last year, out of Rs 75 crore released under PMDP for the year 2017-18, the department had reported an expenditure of just Rs 7.28 crore.
Similarly, for 2016-17, against the released Rs 47.89 crore, J&K showed an expenditure of Rs 39.58 crore.
The government of India, in November 2017, pointed out the delay while reviewing J&K’s pace, implementation, and spending under PMDP.
How and what was the money spent on is a riddle, as none of the 3,900 hectares (77,096 kanals) damaged horticulture land in Bandipora and Baramulla districts has been restored.
“The orchardists who suffered heavy losses due to the floods were not provided with any help. In fact, I am hearing from you that the government of India kept some money for them (in the PMDP),” said Mushtaq Ahmad Tantray, President Fruit Mandi Sopore.
Officials at the helm tried to portray a flowery picture, yet failing to explain the delay and where the money was spent.
Secretary Horticulture, Manzoor Ahmad Lone, said, “The pace of work this year is reasonably fast.”
“The money comes in two, three components, I agree that the process should have been started early. We have kept some money for procuring plants and setting up a vermicompost unit and a pack-house. This is for only those districts which were hit by the flood,” he said.
Lone said the department was planning to go for mid-density and high-density plantation and procuring the rootstock from foreign countries like the Netherlands was a long process.
“We are planning to provide 625 plants per hectare to those areas hit by the flood. We have already kept aside the money and have actually procured around 91,000 rootstocks last year. However, those are currently placed in the quarantine facility at Zainapora,” he said.
He said the rootstock has to be there for at least one season.
“The plantation season ends in March. However, we may not be able to remove the rootstock before April, which means we cannot plant them until November when the next season begins,” he said.
Asked why the department took so long, Manzoor said, “Horticulture was unlike any works department.”
About the horticulture area covered so far, his subordinate, Vinay, said, “We have not received any beneficiaries so far. However, our target for the next season is 150 to 200 hectares.”
While Vinay refused to confirm it, sources in the department said that no efforts were put in to explain to the affected orchardists how they could avail themselves of the government benefits.