Over 200 Apple Trees Axed In Budgam Village In 3 Days

Farmers Say 26 Year Old Rates Applied For Compensation

Budgam: Strong resentment is brewing among the farmers in central Kashmir’s Budgam district as the authorities have started chopping hundreds of apple trees for the alignment of the proposed Srinagar ring road and have applied 26 year old rates as compensation to the affected farmers

According to the farmers, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) in association with district administration has begun cutting down fully grown apple trees in Budgam that are coming under the alignment of the proposed Srinagar Ring Road that passes through several areas of the central Kashmir district.

The apple farmers allege that the government has paid them compensation as per 1995 rates when the wholesale rate of apples was mere Rs 16 per kg in market. They have appealed LG Manoj Sinha for his intervention.

Details available with Kashmir Observer reveal that more than 200 fully grown apple trees were chopped down in Gudsathoo village in Budgam during the last three days.

The apple farmers who spoke to Kashmir Observer said that they were paid compensation for the apple trees in 2018 but the rates were assessed as per 26 year old rates.

“The then horticulture Minister Basharat Bukhari had assured us that rates will be revisited . We had obtained a stay order as well from the High Court in 2018 but the Govt didn’t revisit their rates and all of a sudden our trees were chopped off. From last 3 days the NHAI is cutting down trees in our village and we are watching helplessly fearing they would get us arrested,” said Ghulam Qadir Bhat an affected farmer.

He further said that the compensation for land has also not been paid to most of the affected families in Gudsathoo.

“Govt is forcing us to take Rs 16.10 lakhs per kanal as compensation as the market value in Gudsathoo (apple orchards) is Rs 60 to 70 lakhs per kanal. In 2018 Govt paid Rs 29 lakhs to at least 60 % people whole land was acquired but now the Deputy Commissioner is asking us to take Rs 16.10 lakhs per kanal only”, Ghulam Qadir added

Pertinently the aggrieved persons from several villages of Budgam approached the Jammu & Kashmir High Court earlier this year, contending that their land was notified to be acquired under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act in the year 2017, and that these proceedings have “lapsed” due to the efflux of time as per section 11B of the erstwhile J&K Land Acquisition Act 1934 samvat 1990. The petitioners argued that neither was possession of the land taken from them, nor were they paid any compensation as a result of an award or under Section 17 of the J&K Land Acquisition Act.

A division bench of the High Court of Jammu & Kashmir, in June this year headed by Chief Justice in the matter of Ghulam Ahmad Paul & others vs UT of J&K issued notice in the petition, and in the interim order directed for the maintenance of ‘status quo’ with regard to the possession of the land from being acquired for the construction of Srinagar Ring Road in central Kashmir’s Budgam district.

After 5 months on October 1st the team from National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) lead by a lady engineer and District Administration Budgam lead by a Naib Tehsildar along with a huge contingent of police and JCBs tried to forcibly acquire the land in Budibagh Choon district Budgam. After that action NHAI began axing apple trees in Gudsathoo village, which is a habitation located at the southern end of Srinagar airport.

“When the land owners resisted and showed them the high court order for maintenance of status quo in Budibagh , the officials said they didn’t care and asked them  to axe their apple trees as soon as possible. We were even detained by police when we resisted” said Waseem Ahmad Budoo of Budibagh Budgam.

When contacted, Chief Horticulture Officer (CHO) Budgam, Javaid Ahmed told Kashmir Observer that whenever the horticulture Department assesses any issue of compensation it goes through a specific rule book (SRO).

“The same rules that the department follows were brought into existence in 1995 and a revised version of it was introduced in 2001,” Ahmed said.

“So, even today the same two decade old rules are followed and a specific rate is disbursed as compensation to the beneficiaries. Similarly, these people are also being provided compensation as per that rule only,” he added

He further said that, “A few years back, the state Government had formed a committee to revise these rules and several members had raised some serious points against the old rates that were being provided as compensation but unfortunately no action was taken and hence, the old rates are still in place.”

“These farmers have a valid point but even the department can’t help them as these are the Government defined rates that can only be changed once the rule book is revised,” the CHO said.

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