The horticulture sector in Kashmir is facing tremendous stress. The harvest has been unduly delayed due to the prevailing uncertain situation and the prolonged shutdown. And now the killings of three outside persons associated with the trade has threatened to further disrupt the sector. It could rip apart the engagement between Kashmiri orchardists and the outside businessmen which enables the trade. For now nobody is certain who killed the driver, trader and a labourer from outside. Government has blamed militants for them and militants, on their part, have not accepted the responsibility. The continuing internet blockade has made it difficult for the clarity to emerge.
Also, this is not the first time for the killings of this nature to take place in Kashmir. Mystery invariably shrouds them. There is always a blame game between the government and the militants which ends up confounding rather than clarifying the picture. But then killings of the orchardists is an extraordinary development. It triggers a crisis in a trade that earns the Valley around Rs 8000 crore annually and is responsible for the livelihood of around three million people. Any major loss to the trade thus directly impacts the livelihood of so many people.
This is why the government has to take every measure to protect the horticulture. It has to also ensure that there’s no politicisation of the trade, which wittingly or unwittingly has happened in recent past. The horticulture has been the focus of some government and media attention. This, in turn, has led to the politicisation of the sector with various actors ending up looking at it in terms of how it could be used to project their respective message or agenda.
With winter almost setting in ahead of the time, it is now a race against time to save the apple crop. And not just the government and the political actors, the society as a whole has to pitch in and facilitate the trade. The livelihood of so many people is on the line. And if somehow the trade is disrupted, its after effects will be felt by the Valley’s economy for a long time to come. With tourist season having already been lost to revocation of Article 370 and subsequent shutdown, it is imperative for us that we don’t let the apple industry suffer unsustainable losses too. This can be done by creating more awareness about the problems being currently encountered by the sector and getting the government and the society create a conducive atmosphere for it.