The horticulture sector in the Kashmir valley is suffering from huge losses, apart from the tourism industry because of the current unrest. Stakeholders in the horticulture industry say that the security restrictions imposed on travelling on Kashmir’s main highway and through the Banihal tunnel, which connects the valley to the rest of India, have adversely affected the movement of their apple-laden trucks. According to the chairman of the All Kashmir Fruit Growers and Dealers Association, Bashir Ahmad Basheer, the sector has suffered a loss of over Rs 1,300 crore. Economists say that in the past 82 days the overall losses in the different sectors have accumulated to around Rs 10,000 crore. They say that if the unrest continues, Kashmir will face a huge financial crisis.
The state Horticulture Department says that the government is trying to ease the restrictions on the movement of trucks and at present dozens of trucks have started going out of Kashmir every day. However, Bashir Ahmad Basheer said that only 40-50 fruit-laden trucks have gone out of Kashmir until now, when the number was 250 to 300 last year in the same period.
The president of the Sopore Fruit Association, Mushtaq Ahmad Tantray told journalists that they were being forced to sell their apples to the local market as the security forces were not allowing their trucks to move at night.
The opposition National Conference has criticised the Mehbooba Mufti government for keeping the Banihal tunnel closed for 16 hours every day. NC additional general secretary, Sheikh Mustafa Kamal said that the closure of the tunnel was isolating Kashmir economically and socially and that it was a punitive measure.
Meanwhile, J&K Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu told the media that the prevailing unrest had hurt the state economically. He said that the Sales Tax Department managed to collect only Rs 1,200 crore as sales tax, instead of Rs 4,000 crore. He said that the unrest also hurt all major developmental works.