Kashmir: Farmers, Workers Protest Against 'Anti-People' Policies of UT Administration
Image Courtesy: PTI
Srinagar: Scores of apple farmers and activists held a demonstration in Srinagar's Press Enclave on Sunday against what they termed as "anti-people" and "anti-worker" policies of the government in Jammu and Kashmir.
The demonstration was organised by the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and Jammu Kashmir Apple Farmers Federation as they highlighted problems faced by residents of the Union territory. The protesters raised slogans against the government for being apathetic to the plight of the common people.
During the demonstration, farmers' leader Ghulam Nabi Malik highlighted the significance of the apple trade in providing livelihood to lakhs of households in Kashmir as he pointed towards the distress faced by farmers in the valley.
"The major issue confronting the apple farmers is the denial of remunerative price. They are being supplied with spurious pesticides, fungicides and fertilisers, which harm the produce and orchards instead of treating different diseases," Malik said.
Apple farmers in the region face a major challenge given the import of apples from Iran and Afghanistan, which the local agriculturists say has affected the local apple trade. This came after the farmers faced difficulties due to low crops, weather vagaries like hailstorms, crop disease, and transportation difficulties. The traders, however, say there is a slow improvement in the market this year, but the challenges persist.
Farmers' leader Mohamad Afzal Parry demanded that there should be a 100% import duty on foreign apples. He called for the provision of fertilisers and pesticides at subsidised rates to apple farmers and cold storage facilities for apple-producing districts.
"The crop insurance scheme must be implemented at ground level under the supervision of the government," he said.
The protesters added that transporters are also facing immense hardships in the region as they demanded that preference should be given to local transporters for starting cab services.
"The local transporters are asked to provide fitness certificates on a monthly basis. Non-local transporters are operating without any permission, which has hampered the livelihood of the local transporters," said Zahoor Ahmad, who was also part of the protest.
Former minister and leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Mohamad Yousuf Tarigami pointed out another major crisis faced by the people of Kashmir, which is witnessing one of the worst power crises in the last two decades.
"People are facing extreme inconvenience due to long and unscheduled power cuts at a time when temperatures in the valley have dipped to sub-zero levels. Hospitals are bearing the brunt of the crisis, and industries and other crucial sectors are suffering too," Tarigami, who is also CITU President, said while addressing the gathering.
The former Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) added that J&K is a direct victim of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) and has been disadvantaged.
"J&K is made to bear a recurring loss of billions of rupees annually besides limiting its 15000 MW power generation potential," Tarigami said as he urged the Central government for compensation for these losses.
"Raising royalty from existing 12% to 40% in all Centre Sector Hydroelectric Projects (HEPs) in the region is a legitimate demand which should be fulfilled if the union government is serious about streamlining the precarious power situation in Jammu and Kashmir," he added.
The leader demanded that the government implement the recommendations made by the Rangarajan Committee to hand over two J&K-based hydroelectric power projects to the region.
Trade union leader Abdul Rashid Pandit also called for measures to bring relief to locals who are working on meagre wages or have been waiting for the regularisation of services for a long time.
"Despite the constitution of several committees for regularisation of daily wagers, casual labourers and other workers, nothing concrete has been done. Instead of providing employment, the administration is snatching the livelihood of employees on flimsy grounds," he said.
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