Rashid Paul

Fruit-growers say they feel ‘insulted’ by measly compensation given for snowfall damages

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Srinagar Feb 14: An “unfair” and “unreasonable” allocation of relief is the new kind of distress fruit farmers in Kashmir are being subjected to in the aftermath of the untimely and disastrous snowfall of November 07 last year.

“Damages to our fruit farms were painful but the amount of relief provided by the union territory administration is a virtually rubbing salt into our wounds,” said Mohammed Amin of the South Kashmir Fruit Growers and Dealers Association.

Rs 2000 per (fruit-grower) household has been credited into the accounts by the government in Shopian area, said Amin.

Assessment of damages was carried out by the Horticulture department in collaboration with the Revenue department officials in December-January 2019-20. It was estimated that the fruit farmers across Kashmir had suffered a loss of over Rs 2300 crores due to the calamitous snowfall.

The farmers in the Valley expected a generous recompense by the central government to enable them to raise their crops again. “But it seems to have been numbed by the ongoing frosty winter in Kashmir,” they allege.

A “cold-hearted approach” has been taken by allocating “just Rs 120 crores as relief for the seven lakh households directly involved with horticulture,” a senior Revenue department official informed this newspaper.

The officer said Rs 105 crores have been credited into the accounts of the farmers excluding those in Srinagar, Ganderbal and Kulgam districts.

The funds, according to G M Shan, a senior official at the Directorate of Horticulture Kashmir, have come from the National Disaster Response Fund, Ministry of Home Affairs.

“It (the relief) is a crude joke,” said Abdul Hameed Lone of Daru Frastwair Wagura Baramulla (north Kashmir). Hameed has a 1.6 acre orchard and a meager amount of Rs 1500 have been transferred into his account.

Hameed said that his orchard suffered damage to the extent of 50 percent. “Last year my production was 1000 boxes of apple which cannot get beyond 300 boxes this year as most of the fruit bearing branches were wiped out by the snow,” he said.

The relief will not suffice even for the purchase of the adhesive tapes and ropes for the broken twigs, he said.

According to the NDRF norms relief @ Rs 900 per kanal is to be provided to the farmers, Shan, the official at the Directorate of Horticulture, said.

Going by this measure, when asked where then is the remaining amount of relief money amounting to Rs 10,200 for Hameed Lone of Daru Frastwair Wagura, the officer had no answers.

The Commissioner-Secretary Revenue and Relief, besides his Financial Advisor opted not to respond to many phone calls, short text messages and the mails for the “grossly unfair and unreasonable” estimation and allotment of relief for the fruit growers.

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