Srinagar, Feb.04: One of Asias largest fruit mandis in North Kashmirs Sopore town is in a mess with no are minimum facilities available there for the traders as well as workers. The traders from last several years have been demanding the basic facilities but of no avail.
Established in 1988 on 372 kanals of land and considered biggest fruit mandi in India, the mandi every year makes a business of around 2600 crore but due to the negligent approach of the authorities, the fruit growers as well as the workers allege that the state government from time to time has failed to pay any attention towards the upgrading of the infrastructure as well as providing basic facilities to the traders and workers.
According to traders as much as Rs 2500-Rs 2600 crore fruit business is being carried out in the mandi every year. However the lack of infrastructure and dearth of facilities is hampering the growth of business as it is preventing foreign buyers to come to the mandi.
Not to talk of modern/ advanced trading facilities we dont even have basic trading facilities. We dont have proper auction platforms. Present auction platforms can accommodate only a few fruit growers while there are thousands of growers in the line. At least there should be 50 auction platforms for the fruit growers, they said.
Growers allege that there is no accommodation facility for the traders and the drivers coming from outside of the state in the mandi. Two years back the government constructed a guest house of few rooms in the mandi but that is not sufficient for thousands of people. When it comes to facilities and infrastructure, we are far behind from other mandis in the country not to talk of whole Asia, said Abdul Sattar a fruit grower, resident of Chinkipora.
Here in the mandi, water is supplied through plastic tanks despite that nearly 40000 people visit mandi every single day. We have been asking for separate water supply from past ten years but due to criminal negligence of the authorities, they have made fun of the people working here as well as of the traders. The only reason I could sense is that they want to ruin this mandi forever and want to hamper the growth of apple fruit in the state, he added further.
Bashir Ahmed, a fruit grower said, hundreds of loaded trucks move from this mandi to various states of country but one can see the big potholes and dilapidated condition of the road. From last 16 years the road is in very bad shape. The entire stretch from Sopore College to the market where thousands of trucks move in and move out from the mandi is a reflection of what government is doing over the past two decades.
While this mandi is known throughout Asia, it doesnt have any single cold storage facility. Such facilities have come up in far south in Anantnag and Pulwama districts. But that is time consuming and more importantly the traders come here in the mandi so cold storage must be here, but it has not been constructed the reasons known to the authorities, he rued.
President Sopore Fruit Growers Association Fayaz Ahmed said, Despite horticulture being backbone of the state economy, the various state governments have totally neglected this sector which is reflected by the state of this mandi. We have approached authorities number of times to provide basic facilities, but our pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
When Kashmir Observer contacted Horticulture Department, Deputy Director Q.A. Rashid said, We are developing infrastructure. We have made 16 auction platforms for the fruit growers in the mandi. We are planning to build a parking lot for the trucks and for which we have already acquired 90 kanals of land. With respect to bad roads he said we have demarcated land but that is the property of people which has to be solved by the two parties to build a main link road which will connect the main mandi to the market. Regarding Cold storage facilities Rashid admitted that there was dire need of having one cold store at the mandi for which according to him proper finances were lacking. I agree there is definite water problem not with only mandi but with whole Sopore area. There is already a proposal with Public Engineering Department to foster a scheme where there could be a separate pipeline for drinking water facility for the workers as well as for the traders in the mandi.
There is a guest house of 12 rooms but I understand it is not enough for thousands of guests who visit the mandi, so we are planning to build a krishigar like in other states of India to accommodate thousands of people. But for this we need finances which right now are lacking. As soon as funds will be released things will change but definitely it will take time, he added more.
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