Srinagar, Feb 14: It was hard-earned savings of 15 years that 58-years-old Ghulam Mohammad invested to buy a small apple orchard in Baramulla.
For the last five years, the orchard was giving him enough returns that he thought of buying another one to diversify his horticulture business. His excitement, however, was short-lived when his entire orchard got damaged in November 7 snowfall.
What hurt him the most was the payment of 1500 as compensation for the losses he incurred. “For the last two months, I have been trying hard to rebuild what I have lost. My expenditure has crossed Rs two lakh. And then came a shocker when government released Rs 1500. Is it a kind of joke?” he asked.
This is just a trailer of `insensitivity’ that government has shown towards the farmers who lost everything in the devastating snowfall last year. Under National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF) norms, Jammu and Kashmir government has started distributing Rs 2000 to farmers as compensation for their losses.
Officials of the Horticulture Department said an affected farmer is entitled to Rs 2000 compensation for each kanal of land. “Under the NDRF norms, a minimum Rs 2000 should be paid to the affected family,” they said.
Fruit growers, however reacted sharply saying the horticulture industry provides employment to 70 per cent of the Kashmir’s population and yet government is doing nothing to uplift it. “They (horticulture department) made assessment but did nothing to compensate growers,” said Fayaz Ahmad Malik, President, North Kashmir Fruit Growers and Dealers Association.
Malik said Rs 2000 is not even enough to repair the broken fruit tree. “We have to buy iron bolts, nails and ropes for every damaged tree. It costs us Rs 2000 per tree. Can Rs 2000 be a compensation for growers who suffered huge damages?” he asked.
President, North Kashmir Fruit Growers and Dealers Association noted that the government should have been sensitive enough to pay at least Rs 5,000 per broken tree. “A tree which yields fruits for Rupees one lakh for 15 years should at least be given Rs 10,000 as compensation,” Malik said.
According to Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers cum Dealers Union (KVFG), an umbrella body of all fruit growers associations, 80 percent of apple trees were uprooted due to the untimely heavy snowfall.
“Fruit orchards have suffered 90 percent damages. It would take at least 15 years for growers to find replacement for uprooted trees,” KVFG President Bashir Ahmad Basheer said.
Preliminary assessment conducted by the horticulture department revealed that 30 per cent of orchards suffered damages due to the snowfall.
Deputy Director of Horticulture department Javed Ahmad Bhat said Rs 2000 was not a compensation “but a kind of relief for growers.” “The department is currently in a process to ensure compensation to the affected farmers. We have appealed government for sanctioning various projects under which we can compensate the affected farmers,” he said.