Millennium Post

In the harvest season

The apple economy in Kashmir is said to be the latest casualty in strife-torn region. Crucial to the overall economic health of the northern region, losses had been piling up until very recently, sales picked up and granted some respite to the traders. The problems of economy did not just follow from the clampdown after the Central government's decision to downgrade the state and split it into two Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir; insurgent groups too have been wreaking havoc by coercing apple pickers, traders, and drivers to shun the industry as a mark of protest against the Indian government crackdown. Kashmir's apple orchards supports nearly half the people living in that region but at present they lie deserted and fruits rot on the trees at a time when they should be bustling with harvesters. A bumper crop of apples was expected this year but as matters have taken shape, heavy losses in millions of dollars are mounting and the business stands to suffer its worst year since the beginning of the insurgency. About $1,200 worth of produce lay in waste in just one heap in a small village near Srinagar. The extent of loss may be gauged, and so its severity. The political decision to alter the status of the northernmost state possibly did not foresee the range of impact in the intensity to which it is in effect—the communication blackout, the strict restrictions on movements, deployment of several more troops in the already heavily militirised region, and worse, detaining thousands of people on preventive grounds and on grounds of suspicions while having mobile and internet snapped resulted in a state of chaos and abhorring distrust for the government. Now, with the backbone of the regional economy also dealt a severe blow, political motivations have been spilling over the economic domain and, needless to say, have been creating a seriously bad impact to the extent that even migrant labours who are not associated with apple business are under threat. With the menace of militants, orchards lie empty of harvesters and overripe fruit thuds to the ground. The expected boom in this season has visibly turned into a load of misery. Apple trade accounts for close to one-fifth of Kashmir's economy and provides livelihoods for 3.3 million people. This year, less than 10 per cent of the harvested apples had left the region by October 6. Hunger, empty pockets, threat to life, uncertain environment, and the scent of rotting fruit is the condition of Kashmir these days. Perhaps all that is left to me pointed out is that a political decision has impacts so expansive and far-reaching that they go beyond the purview of dramatic developments. The most crucial factors ought to have been weighed adequately. India knows better at this time what economic slowdown means.

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