Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti on Tuesday joined the protesting fruit traders in the Valley and threatened to launch a street agitation in case the Lieutenant-Governor’s administration failed to provide a free passage to apple carrying trucks on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway.
Several fruit mandis in north and south Kashmir continued to remain closed in protest of halting of trucks. “The halting of trucks along the Srinagar-Jammu highway has resulted in a loss of around ₹500 crore to the apple industry in the month of September,” Mudasir Ahmed Bhat, president of the Buyers Association Fruit Mandi Sopore, said. Kashmir’s apple industry volume is around ₹6,000 crore.
Ms. Mufti, who joined the protesting growers in Shopian fruit mandi, threatened to launch “a peaceful street agitation” if the L-G administration fails to address the issue. “Kashmir has been turned into an open jail. Its economy is being destroyed. I warn the administration that if they don’t immediately open the roads for trucks, I along with our workers will sit on a protest,” Ms. Mufti said. She said orchardists and growers were facing “economic terrorism” at the hands of the L-G administration.
“Despite assurances, the trucks were not being allowed. Doesn’t it hint at a deliberate design? It seems the ways jews crippled Palestinian by economic blockade, same is being repeated in Kashmir. A truck from Jammu to Srinagar takes one day and a truck from Kashmir takes days together to reach Jammu. The L-G should take a strong note of it,” Ms. Mufti said.
According to the fruit traders, around 5,000 trucks remain stranded on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway, the main route connecting the Valley with Jammu.
“The national highway is still blocked due to continuous shooting stones at Cafeteria Morh Ramban,” the traffic department said on Tuesday. The diversion of some trucks towards the Mughal road highway in south Kashmir caused major traffic snarls.
Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Pandurang K. Pole, on Monday assured that all the stranded Jammu-bound trucks will be cleared by Monday night. “There are difficulties in the movement of traffic on the highway due to rains and resultant shooting stones. It is beyond human control,” he said.
Officials said 46000 trucks, including 29000 apple carrying trucks, have reached Jammu between September 1 and 25. Apple industry contributes 6.5-7% to the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) of J&K, with over 35 lakh people dependent on it.
“Perishable fruit-loaded trucks should be given priority on the highway. Given the pathetic economic condition of people in J&K and a majority of the Valley’s population dependent on the fruit industry for their livelihood, the authorities should ensure smooth passage of these trucks,” J&K Apni Party president Altaf Bukhari said.