SRINAGAR: Rattled by the growing militant attacks on non-locals, Jammu and Kashmir government has gone into an overdrive to secure non-Kashmiri truckers and shift them to newly established Fruit Mandi at Aglar in South Kashmir’s Shopian district.
For the last three days, militants have killed three non-locals including a truck driver from Rajasthan, an apple trader from Punjab and brick kiln labourer from Chhattisgarh in twin districts of Shopian and Pulwama in south Kashmir. Latest being the apple trader from Punjab who was gunned down in Trenz village of Shopian district on Wednesday evening. His associate was critically injured in the attack.
Under pressure, J&K government decided to shift the non-local truck drivers to secure enclosures in a bid to keep militants at bay. “Most of trucks have been shifted to Fruit Mandi Aglar. This is a secure area. Truckers will be stationing here”, said Yasin Choudhary, district development commissioner, Shopian.
Since it is a peak fruit season, government has set up packing and loading facility in the Aglar Mandi so that apple exports are not hampered with. “People will be bringing their produce in Tata Mobiles and other smaller vehicles to Aglar Mandi. Packing and loading of the fruit will be done in this Mandi. Everything that is required will be done in this mandi”, he said.
Hundreds of trucks with outside the valley registration numbers have so far been moved to Aglar Mandi. “”We do not have exact figure. It is a dynamic process. Most of the truckers who ship the fruit are non-locals. There are only few local trucks here, say 10 to 12”, he said
Investigators have zeroed in on two militants who are the prime accused in the killing of truck driver and apple trader. One of the two militants has been identified as Pakistani. Another militant has been identified as Rahil Magrey, a local resident.
Fear has gripped the fruit growers after the attacks on non-locals including apple traders and truck drivers in restive south Kashmir. Shopian is known as the apple bowl of south Kashmir. Large quantity of apple crop lies in the orchards and warehouses waiting to be exported to outside the state markets.
Kashmir’s fruit season starts in May when first crop of cherry is harvested. It is followed by pears and other fruits which hit the market in the following months. Apple is almost the last crop that hits the market in autumn. Bulk of the apples is exported to the markets in Delhi. Some of the crop is also sold in Bangalore, Mumbai, Ahmadabad and other cities.
Horticulture is the mainstay of Kashmir’s economy with seven lakh families directly and indirectly associated with the sector. The horticulture contributes seven percent to the Gross State Domestic Product of Jammu and Kashmir.
More than 3.38 lakh hectares of land is under the fruit cultivation in the valley. Of which 1.62 lakh hectares is under the apple cultivation. Last year the fruit production including dry fruits touched 23.30 lakh tonnes last year compared to 22.34 lakh tonnes in 2017.
Jammu and Kashmir is the largest producer of apple in the country with production touching 18.28 lakh metric tonnes last year. The apple production was 17.27 lakh metric tonnes in 2017.