Blaming the Congress government for failure to check the apple market collapse, the BJP on Wednesday announced to stage a protest across apple growing districts of the state.
“It's sad that today the horticulture industry that spans over Rs 3,000 crore to Rs 3,500-crore economy is in grave danger. The Congress is to be blamed for the plight of the apple industry,” said former horticulture minister Narender Bragta at a press conference here on Wednesday.
He said in spite of low apple production in 2010, growers got good prices for apples. “Growers fetched good rates in the market for quality apples that varied from Rs 2,000 to Rs 2,500,” he said, expressing concern over the low prices for apples this year.
Targeting the Congress, he said there were at least five legislators in the Congress from apple growing areas, but so far they have failed to raise voice concerning the problems faced by apple growers. “Nexus between merchants and members of the fruit marketing committee was also largely responsible for crash of the apple market,” he said, adding that growers were facing difficulty in transporting apples due to bad roads in many areas.
Bragta demanded an inquiry into alleged substandard construction works by contractors on many roads leading to apple-growing areas. “I demand that the government should order a probe against contractors,” he said.
Drawing a parallel, Bragta blamed the Congress government for sabotaging a few ambitious projects conceived by the BJP government for strengthening the apple economy. He said the BJP government had envisaged a road project costing Rs 78 crore for hassle-free transportation of apple crop to the markets.
He said one such road project was planned to link Parala to Rajgargh, which would have proved significant for quick transportation of apples.
Castigating the government, he said even the government officials were not concerned about the problems of apple growers. “During our time, I used to monitor the apple transportation, but this time not even deputy commissioners have gone beyond Theogh to oversee transportation,” he said.
Bragta alleged that the government had failed to set up centres for purchase of apples under the market intervention scheme which further compelled the growers to sell their produce at low cost to unregistered buyers.
He said the Congress had accorded top priority to horticulture in its manifesto during the assembly elections, but on the contrary had failed to do so. He said packaging and grading units set up by Horticultural Produce Marketing Corporation had been leased out by the government, which was being operated by unskilled persons.
He said on September 2, the apple growers would hold a protest in Rampur that would be followed by protests in Rohru, Chopal, Kinnaur, Kullu, Mandi and Chamba.
“The protest will continue till second week,” he said, adding that growers across the party lines have been asked to raise voice for their interest.