Fruit trucks stuck: Mehbooba says will block highway, others leaders also protest

As former J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti today threatened to block the national highway in Kashmir if the issue of the passage of fruit-laden trucks was not resolved, leaders of other political parties have also issued a stern warning to the government.

Mehbooba travelled to south Kashmir’s Shopian fruit mandi and participated in a protest along with growers and party workers. For the past two days, fruit mandis across Kashmir are closed.

Mehbooba addressed the gathering at Shopian and announced that she and the people would block the national highway. “Kashmir has been turned into a jail, and they (Centre) are saying everything is fine. Lakhs of people are associated with fruit trade, and they are now crying because they have taken bank loans, from traders in Delhi, who was going to compensate these growers.”

Mehbooba Mufti warned the government that if the national highway was not opened for fruit trucks, she along with all the people would block the national highway. “For convoys, you can open highways. For the Amarnath Yatra, people were not allowed to move out of their houses. For us, three months of fruit season are vital, and we won’t allow anybody to play with our fruit trade.”

Apni party president Altaf Bukhari also demanded a priority passage for fruit-laden trucks on the national highway.

He also urged the centre to stop untaxed apples coming from Iran to the Indian markets. “We met Lt Governor Manoj Sinha 15 days back and highlighted the issue of trucks on the national highway. Despite the directions, the issue wasn’t resolved. “The livelihood of entire Kashmir is dependent on the fruit so this issue should be given priority,” he said, adding that only tourism isn’t the industry. “Fruit is also our big trade.”

People’s Conference blamed saboteurs within the government reason for this mess.

“The devastation inflicted upon the fruit growers appears to be a ploy by internal saboteurs within government to instigate the farmers of Kashmir,” said Peoples Conference general secretary Imran Reza Ansari.

Meanwhile, the president of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), Sheikh Ashiq, said that hundreds of trucks carrying apples were stranded, particularly near the 20km stretch from Qazigund to Banihal. “ The government must effectively find a way out, as the apple harvesting season is gaining momentum with every passing day now. Any further delay in solving the problem can badly hit the Kashmir economy, mostly dependent on the apple trade.”

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