'Those threatening J&K fruit growers will be punished'

Jammu and Kashmir state governor Satya Pal Malik (R). (AFP Photo)

Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik on Thursday said those threatening fruit growers in the Valley will be "punished" and asserted that the government will protect the farming community.

His remarks came after a terror attack on Saturday on a fruit merchant's home in Sopore which left four persons, including a two-and-a-half-year-old girl, injured.

"I want to warn those threatening our farmer brothers. Let them change their behaviour immediately or else we will provide full security to farmers... We will protect them fully," the governor said.

Malik was addressing a function at the launch of a market intervention scheme for apple growers in Kashmir.

No one should harass farmers who want to sell their produce at their own will and if anyone is found indulging in that, the person will be punished immediately, he said.

"We will immediately punish those threatening farmers. So, no one should harass or threaten farmers. If any farmer does not want to sell the product, we will not force him.

"But, if he is selling and you threaten him and even fire at his two-year-old daughter, then you cannot remain free for a long time," Malik said.

The scheme aims at providing a maximum price to growers and it has been approved by the Union agriculture ministry's agriculture and cooperation department under the aegis of the Union home ministry for the current apple harvesting season.

It will be implemented in the state by the directorate of planning and marketing, and supported by the directorate of horticulture, Kashmir, and the Jammu and Kashmir Horticultural Produce, Marketing and Processing Corporation Ltd, an official spokesman said.

Highlighting the importance of horticulture in the state's economy, the governor said with a turnover of Rs 8,000 crore per year in this sector and close to 7 lakh families being directly or indirectly associated with it, this sector, the farmers and the process needs focused support.

Malik noted that with the launch of this scheme, many issues related to the grading of apples, their procurement, storage, and marketing will be taken care of by the government.

The NAFED will procure and market apples and the fruit's growers will get higher remuneration for various grades of apple, he said.

This scheme will help growers to save their crop from distress sale, Malik said.

He stressed on the need for the farming community to become aware of their rights and strengthen themselves so as not to get exploited by market forces that can cause losses.

Expressing gratitude to Union Home Minister Amit Shah for swiftly getting the whole exercise to launch this initiative in support of farmers of Jammu and Kashmir completed within two weeks, Malik sought every stakeholders' cooperation in making it a success, the spokesman said. 

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