Bitter apple growers protest in Himachal, BJP government worried about seriousness of situation in election year – India Times Hindi News

Assembly elections are less than six months away and the Jai Ram Thakur government in Himachal Pradesh is facing heavy opposition from apple growers, a key voter who has the keys to at least two dozen constituencies in the state. Is.

On Friday, an umbrella body of 27 apple growing organisations, under the banner of Samyukta Kisan Manch, organized one of the biggest protest rallies since 1990, just outside the secretariat. With the electoral momentum picking up, the presence of leaders from Congress, Aam Aadmi Party and Communist Party of India (Marxist) is giving the BJP government some worrying moments. Apple growers have given ten days to the administration to resolve their grievances.

The resolution of the crisis has become important for the Thakur government. “There is a significant section of voters who are directly involved in the apple business. The state depends heavily on the apple industry apart from tourism. The resentment among the producers ahead of the elections does not bode well for the party.

The apple industry in Himachal is worth Rs 5,000 crore. The state gives 20-25% of the country’s total produce while Kashmir tops the list with a market share of 70-75%. Out of the total apple production of around 20-25 lakh metric tonnes, Himachal Pradesh produces 4-7 lakh metric tonnes.

Farmers are feeling the heat due to various reasons. Imposition of GST on packaging materials, influx of apple stocks from countries like Iran, climate change and increase in input costs are some of the factors that have reduced their income and made the business less profitable.

Carton rates for packaging of apple crop have increased significantly with the increase in GST rate from 12 to 18 per cent. Also, manufacturers say that paper has also become expensive.

“We protested in 1990. Then our livelihood was in danger and we had no option but to fight. The situation is the same even today, and we will fight it again,” said Anil, an apple grower from Kotgarh.

“Instead of looking for a job, our youth take up horticulture as a means of livelihood. They know that this is their future at stake, so they are on the streets to save it,” said another protester.

The matter of concern for the BJP government is that the issue is turning into a major political dispute with the involvement of opposition leaders. On Friday, CPI(M) MLA Rakesh Singha, Congress MLA Rohit Thakur and AAP leaders attended the protest rally. “The government is making announcements only to divert the attention of farmers. Had the government been serious about providing relief to the growers, it would have taken it along with the Center before the harvesting season,” said Rohit Thakur.

But the government alleges politics and says that the demands of the producers have been considered. Senior BJP leader Khushi Ram Balnath alleged that the movement was politically motivated and aimed to mislead people.

“The government had released arrears of Rs 8.59 crore for apples procured from growers under the market intervention scheme. HPMC and HIMFED have been directed to clear the dues of apple growers within a week.

Balnath said that the government is sympathetic towards the problems of apple growers. “The government has decided to roll back the old system of pesticide distribution and Rs 20 crore has been released to the Horticulture Department for the purchase of anti-hail guns and other equipment,” he said.

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