Srinagar: Apni Party president Altaf Bukhari Tuesday appealed Jammu and Kashmir administration to prioritise the movement of fruit-laden trucks on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway so that the fruit growers in the valley do not suffer losses.
Addressing a press conference here, Bukhari expressed his gratitude to the administration for clearing the backlog of trucks on the national highway and allowing the movement of such trucks on Monday.
The Apni Party chief said the party had taken up the issue with J-K lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha, chief secretary Arun Kumar Mehta and other officials.
“Yesterday also, we raised the issue with the chief secretary. We told him that if the issue is not resolved, then we will have to sit with the (fruit) growers at Qazigund, even as we do not want any law and order problem to be created,” Bukhari said.
Fruit growers of Kashmir on Monday held a demonstration here against the alleged stopping of apple-laden trucks by authorities at various places along the national highway en route to terminal markets of the country.
However, the administration dismissed the allegations, saying the trucks were being halted due to natural causes.
Bukhari said, “I am thankful that he (LG Sinha) took a personal interest and confirmed to me last night that they have cleared the entire backlog.”
He, however, said it also raises a simple question that if the administration could clear the backlog in a day, why did they not do it for the last 15 days?
“It is possible, if they mean it, they can clear the backlog, they can give preference to trucks. We appeal to the administration, with folded hands, that the people of J-K are facing hardship and please do not see only that the tourism sector is doing well,” he said.
About 70 per cent of the population is dependent on horticulture and so its an appeal to the authorities to prioritise the movement of fruit-laden trucks, the Apni Party chief said.
Asked if there was a deliberate attempt to cause losses to the valley’s fruit industry, Bukhari said while it “will be carrying it too far” if he said that they are targeting our industry and our economy, the fact is that our people have suffered and our growers have suffered losses.
“There are elements in every administration and I will not exonerate them from this charge that carelessness has not been done,” Bukhari said.
“Whether it has been intentional carelessness or a routine like it has become under this administration because they think they are not answerable to anyone… But, I want to tell them what they did yesterday, try to do it every day now,” he added.
On the issue of Kashmiri apples fetching less rates in the fruit mandis in the country, Bukhari urged the government to raise the import duty on the apples coming from outside the country.
He said, “If you are procuring apples from other countries like Afghanistan, first you should see if Afghanistan produces so much apple or not.”
“the apple you are getting in the name of Afghanistan duty-free, is basically from Iran. It is being used to make our people suffer losses,” he said.
The former minister appealed to the Centre to address the issue.
“This is theft, there is loss of duty, there is evasion. We regularly see that the Enforcement Directorate or the NIA is active, so, please be active on this as well and arrest those who are doing it. Is it only that people of J-K have to be arrested?” he said.
Bukhari said Prime Minister Narendra Modi is doing everything for Bangladesh as there is a water treaty and electricity is being given to them.“
So, I request him (Modi) to do something for the people of Kashmir as well. In turn, the government has imposed a duty on Kashmiri apples,” he said.
“I request him to kindly intervene in the matter and ask Bangladesh, since we treat them as the most favoured nation, let them in return at least treat the product of this poor state as the most favoured product. It will not only improve our economy, but their people will also get cheaper apples,” he said.
The issues of the fruit growers should be prioritised, political issues will continue.
Bukhari said he has nothing against Iran and the government can procure apples from the country, however, it has to be done through a proper procedure.
“I targeted the Iranian apple which comes through Wagah under the SAFTA (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation). We are not against Iran. Let them get the apple from Iran by paying proper duty which is 55 per cent and not through this duty evasion channel by showing it as apples from Afghanistan,” he said.
“We can pinpoint to them where the apple is coming from. The movement of the truck right from the orchard level can be tracked in today’s times. It is just that there is some hanky-panky. I do not know whether it is at the official level or some other level,” he added. PTI