Shimla, November 28
The Apple Farmers Federation of India, comprising growers from Kashmir, Himachal and Uttarakhand, will hold a day’s protest at Jantar Mantar in Delhi on March 6.
The decision was taken in a conclave of the federation in Shimla today. A book ‘Apple Is Our Livelihood’ dealing with challenges the apple industry is facing was also released on the occasion.
There’s a lot of unrest among apple growers in both Himachal and Kashmir over increasing input costs, cheap imports, mainly from Iran, and the shrinking government support.
“Apple growers have been protesting against the challenges that are making fruit cultivation unsustainable. We have been protesting only in our states but now we have decided to take our struggle to Delhi to get the national focus on the crisis in the apple industry,” said Sohan Thakur, president, Himachal Seb Utpadak Sangh.
He said, “Also, we will hold block-level protests in the state on January 10 to highlight our demands like MSP as recommended by the Swaminathan commission, rollback of the GST on packaging material and higher import duty.”
Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami, a politician from Kashmir and member of the federation, stressed the need for the apple growers to put up a united front against the government. “Spontaneous protests are good but to sustain the fight, you need a movement, you need an organisation. All of us need to come together if we have to save the onslaught on the apple industry, which is the livelihood of lakhs of families in Kashmir, Himachal and Uttarakhand,” he said.
He questioned the wisdom behind leaving apple growers to compete in the international market on their own. “There’s not much effort towards research and development to enhance production and productivity and the government help in the form of subsidies is shrinking. Against this backdrop, how will our growers compete in the international market?” he said.
Meanwhile, CPM MLA Rakesh Singha urged the apple growers to prepare for a decisive fight with the corporates and those protecting their interests. “The farmers’ agitation has showed us that these forces can be defeated. They have given us the model and the apple growers just need to follow it,” he said.
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