Recently, the Narendra Modi government had announced that it would buy apples directly from apple growers in Jammu and Kashmir, the payment for which would be made under the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme into the bank accounts of the individuals. Full procurement of apples will be done by December to ensure proper procurement, the government opened two more centres at Kulgam and Anantnag taking the total number of centres to six.
Since the abrogation of Article 370 there have been communication and travel restrictions in the union territory.
Despite this, aided by the government scheme, apple farmers have sent 6 lakh metric tons of apples to various parts of the country till October 20. More than 3,000 farmers have registered to be a part of the scheme.
Reasons Why the Move is a Game-changer
The seemingly simple decision to buy apples directly has far- reaching economic and security ramifications that must be discussed for this is another part of a string of well-thought out moves that the Modi Government has made with respect to Jammu and Kashmir in the last few months. Each move has a deeper target than initially visible.
To understand in depth and clarity why the move is an economic masterstroke we first need to understand the relevance of apple productiontolocals.
The population of Jammu and Kashmir is a bit over 1.4 crore. Apple production and its allied activities involve 67 per cent of the union territory’s population, meanwhile, the number of people directly or indirectly working in orchards is about 33 lakh people amounting to almost 24 per cent of the population. The union territory grows about 75 per cent of the apples produced in the country with an annual revenue of over Rs.8,000 crores. Data from 2018-19 suggests that apple accounts for 88.5 percent of the total fresh fruit production in Jammu and Kashmir.
If we take into consideration both fresh fruits and dry fruits even then apples are 41.4% of the produce. The above facts firmly establish the importance of apple production to the economy of Jammu and Kashmir and to the livelihood of its people. The government is eliminating middlemen and raising income of apple growers; ensuring timely and full payment; putting money into farmers’ pockets that is in turn increasing consumption thus benefiting the local economy.
The economic benefits are quite easy to understand. However, this decision will also impact the security aspect. For that we need to go a bit more into the details of apple production in Jammu and Kashmir for the year 2018-19.
Total production (in metric tonnes) for Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh was 18.48 lakh mts, 30,595 mts and 3,241 mts respectively. Thus, Kashmir accounted for 98.20 per cent of apple production in the erstwhile state. Now let’s go a bit deeper. There are ten districts in Kashmir.
Six of these – Srinagar, Pulwama, Sopore, Baramulla, Kupwara and Anantnag – see most terrorism, fuelling of anti-India agenda and presence of pro-Pakistan sentiments.
Apple production in these six districts in 2018-19 was 13.34 lakh mts; 72% of the production in Kashmir and nearly 71% of the total production in the now union territories. It is thus a natural inference that most of the people involved in apple production and related activities reside in Kashmir and more specifically in the above mentioned districts.
When these people get money for an activity that is the basis of their livelihood, then elements who incite locals against the Indian Army and the state will lose relevance. These prop-ups of Pakistan are hellbent on creating negativity around the abrogation of Article.
By paying lakhs of people directly for their apple produce the government is dealing a serious blow to such propaganda. The apple growers and everyone involved around them will take this as a direct result of the removal of 370.
When locals in terror-infected areas begin to feel that opportunities for a better life with more income and greater safety are coming to their oorstep then an overwhelming majority will spurn any overtures made by agents of Pakistan working in the Valley.
By eliminating middlemen not only will the government add to the income of apple growers who once had to give up a portion to them but will also ensure that no money made by middlemen is used for anti-India propaganda, if it ever was. There will be no pilferage in the supply line and each rupee will be accounted for and reach where it is meant to reach.
Thumbs Up to Government Actions?
In the recently conducted Block Development Council (BDC) elections in Jammu and Kashmir the turnout recorded was an incredible 98.3 per cent. Significantly, Srinagar saw 100 per cent turnout despite the curbs in place post the abrogation of 370. This response from locals gains even greater relevance as three political parties – Congress, PDP and NC – had boycotted the polls. Such huge participation indicates that people are cozying up to the decision to repudiate 370 and the purchase of apples to ease some of the economic pain is definitely working well.