It is just the right time for the winter chill to subside and give way to spring for the blooming of apple orchards. While everything is going in perfect timing and favour of a upcoming good apple season,tardy work on expansion of the Theog-Kharapatthar-Hatkoti road has increased the worries of orchardists. The road passes through Jubbal-Kotkhai,heart of the richest apple belt that contributes nearly 40 per cent share of the Rs 1,500-crore apple economy of Himachal.
Gauging the mood of apple growers,the Congress has now decided not only to raise the issue in the upcoming Budget Session,but also plan an agitation.
Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee secretary and former MLA from Jubbal-Kotkhai constituency Rohit Thakur said: The issue is very serious but the government seems least concerned despite the fact that due to poor maneuverability on Theog-Hatkoti road owing to slush and large potholes,85 lives have been lost in accidents on this stretch in the last six months. Moreover,apple growers had last year faced losses to the tune of Rs 700 crore as apple-laden trucks had remained stranded on this stretch for days as the entire patch was dug up for expansion.
Thakur said only four months were left for the next apple harvest and the scope of any let-up in the condition of the road seemed little. In 2008,the road work was allotted to a Chinese firm,which was supposed to complete it in 30 months. Delays have already cost the apple growers dear, Thakur said in a statement issued on Sunday.
He warned of a widespread agitation in the apple belt if the condition of the road was not restored in a month,as promised by the government recently following intervention of the Himachal Pradesh High Court. The Congress is preparing for a mass contact programme on the issue.