Shimla: Coping up with a shortage of trucks for transporting apple boxes for marketing, chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said that the government was making all efforts to keep the roads open even though heavy rains at places had damaged the network.
Responding to a matter raised by leader of the opposition Vidya Stokes and congressman Kuldeep Pathania about the bad conditions of roads, especially in apple growing areas, the chief minister said that an unusually heavy monsoon had caused much damage to the road network, which the department had so far assessed at Rs 174 crores.
The government had deployed 137 bull dozers, 330 JCBâ€™s which included 131 engaged from private parties to keep the roads open round the clock.
He said that officers had been sent to other states so as to arrange for additional trucks to cope up with rising transportation demand.
The states road network had grown to over 31,000 Kms and a substantial amount was needed every year of it upkeep, budget provisions for which have been made, he added.
Making a specific mention of the Theog, Kotkhai, Jubbal, Rohru road, he said that widening work on all sections of road had been taken up because of a ten month delay in executing the World Bank funded project.
The Chinese company executing the contract, is trying to make up for the lost time.
A traffic choke point at Kufri was because of evening the grade by laying a new route on the highway there, he said.
Earlier, Narinder Bragta, the horticulture minister participating in the discussion said that about 1250 trucks carrying about 4 lakh apple boxes were leaving the state daily.
As on date 1 crore and 5 lakh boxes had been marketed outside the state, said Bragta. Under market intervention scheme all 258 collection centers were operational and only 5,000 metric tons of apples had been procured under the scheme.
Despite so much of marketing operations having been conducted, the fruit price at the wholesale auction yards had not fallen and farmers were getting remunerative prices, he added.
Initiating the debate, Stokes said the government had totally failed in its primary duty to maintain roads at a time when the Rs 2000 crore apple economy needs marketing access.
For the farmers it was a nightmare to market his produce and the situation has not been thus bad in 50 years, she said.
Apple orchardists in Jubbal-Kotkhai were the worst affected as the life line road from Theog-Kotkhai-Khara Pattar-Jubbal-Rohru was frequently choking resulting in jams lasting several hours at a go, said Stokes. Shortage of truck was resulting in overcharging of freights, she said.
Senior BJP member Kushi Ram Balnahta said that congress members were being alarmist while apple marketing operations were running smoothly.
Nandlal, congress legislator from Rampur said that lakhs of boxes were awaiting marketing access in his constituency because rural 5 roads were blocked.
Making light of Vidya Stokes having mentioned that she had to face a 6 hour traffic jam on National Highway 22 while going to Narkanda-Thanedhar, Renu Chadd, a BJP member said that traffic jams were a sign of progress.
Participating in the debate GS Bali of congress said that given the volume of traffic, it was important that planners make future projections so that infrastructure being set up could cope up rising needs.
Kaul Singh Thakur, congress president said that with ruling benches indifferent attitude towards the farmers plight just showed how far they were from reality.
Former speaker Gangu Ram Musafir said that with treasury benches only concerned about scoring political points over the problem would only lead to more losses for the farming community.