SHIMLA: The leader of opposition in Himachal Assembly and senior most Congress leader in the State Vidya Stokes on Sunday blamed the BJP led State government for not raising the farmersâ€™ issues at appropriate platforms and leaving them at the mercy of weather gods. Addressing media persons after her extensive tour of the apple producing areas the Congress leader even showed the devastated fruits, leaves and destroyed branches of fruit trees after a massive hail storm in the hills.
Mrs Stokes claimed that about 90 percent of the fruit crop in Shimla and Kullu districts and 60 percent crop in Mandi and adjoining areas have been destroyed this year. She demanded complete crop insurance with a 90 percent subsidy in premium to the farmers with the help of State and Central governments. She also asked for anti-hail nets to be given to the farmers at a big subsidy so that some production can be saved. More than 93 percent farmers in the State are small and marginal peasants and the apple crop alone has an economy of Rs 3000 crore with more than 10 lakh families being dependent on it.
The opposition leader has demanded free supply of pesticides to growers and the allotment of full and final payment of the MIS (market intervention scheme) money to the farmers. â€œA Horticulture Board should be constructed for the benefit of farmersâ€, she said.
She has also requested the BJP government to represent the Stateâ€™s interest and plead to the Commerce Minister to use the provisions under the WTO Act to stop the import of apples in India which is inversely affecting the Himachal apples. On asked if the Congress party has done any concrete study on the plight of small apple growers and supply the same to the Union government for saving the marginal farmers, the senior leader said it has to be taken up formally by the State governments only and according to the actâ€™s provisions.
KY Singh is a political observer and a senior journalist with an interest in a diverse set of issues related to Himachal Pradesh and other mountain states. He lives in Shimla.