The ongoing confrontation between the Solan Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) authorities and apple traders over granting of permission to carry out apple trading in the fruit and vegetable market at Kather, near Solan, intensified after deputy commissioner (DC) ordered the shifting of the apple market to Kandaghat on Friday without creating any basic infrastructure there.
In his order, Solan DC Madan Chauhan said since the state government had decided to shift the apple market from the Solan bypass to Kandaghat, the apple trading during the current season would be carried out at an identified location there. He asked the APMC authorities to issue directions to all apple traders not to carry out trading on the Kalka-Shimla National Highway and shit their base to Kandaghat.
Earlier, the fruit and vegetable commission agents, particularly dealing in apple, had been carrying out the business by establishing temporary sheds along the highway on the Solan-Chambaghat bypass in the absence of adequate space at the fruit and vegetable complex, Kather. The APMC had collected around `150 lakh market fee on apple trading last year. While more than 20 lakh apple boxes were sold at the Solan market last year, the figure was 30 lakh apple boxes in 2013.
The fruit and vegetable complex at Solan that was set up during the Prem Kumar Dhumal's regime in 2002 caters to apple growers from Solan, Shimla and Sirmour districts. It turned as a favourite destination for apple growers after traders from outside states, who offer remunerative prices, started visiting the market to purchase the fruit.
The unilateral decision of the government to shift the apple trading form Solan to Kandaghat to allegedly facilitate some local politicians has invited sharp criticism from merchants as well as the growers.
Meanwhile, members of Fruits and Vegetable Association, Solan, at an emergent meeting on Saturday expressing unhappiness over the government's decision and declined to carry out apple trading at Kandaghat. Association president Vijay Sood said traders would not shift to Kandaghat as the government had not provided any facilities such as power and auctions platform there. This would affect the apple producers during the current season as they would have to pay additional freight charges to sell their produce either at Parwanoo or outside the state, he said.
Since most of the apple growers take the Sirmour route to reach Solan, shifting of apple market to Kandaghat would increase the travelling distance by 20 kilometres towards the opposite direction. The members unanimously resolved and urged the chief minister to reconsider the decision in the larger interest of growers as well as the traders.
The government has transferred around 90 bighas of land (hilly terrain) in the name of the APMC this week for the apple market but the area is sans any facility. Kandagaht being a small hamlet also does not have a facility of big banking transactions and adequate number of nationalised and private banks. Instead of shifting the market to Kandaghat, the government should identify land in Solan, said the traders.
"Some Congress leaders are misleading the government and the chief minister for vested interests. Shifting of apple market will adversely affect the traders as well as the growers," said Manoj Chauhan, an apple grower from Shimla.
APMC chairman Ramesh Thakur said since the work on the national highway would begin shortly, the permission to carry out apple trading on the highway could not be granted.