Apples rot on trees as Kashmir strife inflicts economic pain

Shopping Inn: Kashmir's apple orchards, the backbone of the economy and the livelihood of almost half of the locals, were abandoned as fruit rot on the trees when they had to thrive as harvesters.

Losses are increasing as rebel pressure selectors, traders and drivers aimed at avoiding the industry to protest the crackdown of the Indian government.

Apple growers call this the "quiet war declared above."

“This is almost $ 1,200 worth of produce. Mohammad Shafi, an apple farmer, points to a pile of rotten apples thrown into the pit of a small town, Yuyan, 37 miles (60 km) east of the region's main city, Srinagar, and now it's all a waste.

Kashmir's pristine mountain landscapes, ski resorts, lake houseboats and orchards have long been a tourist destination. But the armed uprising was raging for 30 years in the conflict-controlled India of Kashmir.

In August, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist government deprived Kashmir's anti-autonomous state and enforced strict crackdowns, sending tens of thousands more to detain thousands and block cell phones and Internet services.

Even after two months, the area remains blocked. Authorities restored wireline services and some cell phones, but not the Internet, making it difficult to reach merchants outside the area.

Apple growers were looking forward to bumper crops this year. Now they say the losses are millions of dollars and can suffer the worst year since nearly 70,000 deaths since the start of the rebellion.

“Everything started in August. It hasn't recovered since, ”Shafi said.

On Wednesday, police said the militants were suspected of killing the apple merchants and wounded others in a late night attack by a southern merchant. The same day, migrant workers who worked in brick kilns were also shot dead, police said.

As a result, two militants, allegedly killed truckers near an apple orchard, were arrested Tuesday collecting 800 boxes of fruit.

On September 6, an unknown gunman was fired from a fruit merchant in northern Sophoe, injuring him and his family of four.

Therefore, the orchard has an empty harvest time as ripe fruits ripen and pop out on the ground.

The $ 1.6 billion export of apples in 2017 accounted for nearly one-fifth of the Kashmir economy, providing a living of 3.3 million people. Less than 10% of apples harvested this year left the area by October 6.

“It will take years to recover from this shock,” said Basheer Ahmad Basheer, head of the Apple Growers Union in Srinagar.

Authorities set up four wholesale markets to support this industry, but as of October 6, the market could only buy $ 300,000 of apples worth about $ 1.9 billion in crops this year.

"We were able to dispatch two Taiwanese trucks out of Kashmir from here," said Anshul Mittal, an official from the wholesale market in Srinagar Paris Fora.

Many of the more than 12 officials dispatched to help in the market said the effort failed because truckers did not take the risk of transporting apples. They did not want to be named because they were afraid of retaliation from the upper classes.

The deadliest is in southern Kashmir, where dense apple orchards span hundreds of villages.

Shafi's orchards in Wuyan typically produce nearly 10,000 boxes of apples each year. He said he sold only 1,000 boxes this year. Since the apple fell from the tree and hurt, he said, he must discard half of the remaining yields.

Growers like Shafi often rely on loans to pay for labor, fertilizers and other expenses.

“A few days ago a friend requested a repayment of a loan. I cried and begged because I had no money to give him back, ”Shafi said.

This despair believed 45 days of work to make more than $ 400 to support his family by tricking unskilled workers like 22-year-old Sheeraz Ahman.

To date, he worked only for five days.

"We are in a desperate situation," Ahmad said.

Nevertheless, fewer workers are looking for work than usual. Many left the area at the same time, advising tourists to go out in August.

A young apple picker who asked not to be named in fear of the authorities said he prefers to be hungry rather than being held in military camps.

The military denied the arrest and torture charges.

But rumors about such tactics usually surprised people working in orchards.

The same goes for shooting.

Police accused the local rebels of shooting on September 6 and insisted the rebels are threatening merchants and truck drivers.

Many farmers told The Associated Press that these threats are falling away from orchards regardless of who wields their weapons.

In addition to the collapse of bedrock in the Kashmir economy, there is also a symbolic significance of apology.

Some people working in the industry said they want apples to rot and frustrate India's efforts to show that things are back to normal.

Interfering with communication and rebelling, the government said it was impossible to crack down. Aabid Gulzar, a 19-year-old English literature student, is helping to feed six families in an apple orchard.

"They (India) can blame the person they want, but who created this rapidly deteriorating situation in the first place?"

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