Apple traders from Punjab’s Fazilka, Muktsar districts and Rajasthan’s Ganganagar claim to have suffered losses of Rs 80 lakh in the aftermath of killing of Abohar-based apple loader Charanjeet Popli on October 15. More than 100 apple traders and their 500 workers returned to Punjab and Rajasthan between October 17-20, while leaving apple stock — that was partly paid for — behind.
Inder Sharma, general secretary of Kinnow Mandi Ahrtiya Association of Abohar told The Indian Express: “The crates are lying in the valley. They could not bring any stock back, although every trader had paid advance to the middlemen (through whom apple produce is purchased). They (apple traders and workers) were from Fazilka, Malaut and Ganganagar. They had been going there for the past many years between September-October, ahead of the Diwali season.”
Though the firing occurred in Trenz village of Shopian district of Kashmir, the traders and their workers were spread in areas apart from Shopian. They were spread out in villages of Pulwama, Shadimarg, Gulshanabad to procure apples.
Gurdev Singh, an apple trader from Abohar, said: “Gurdwaras in Kashmir came to our rescue on October 15 evening when Charanjeet was killed. Though many of us were scattered in different villages, we preferred to spend that night in gurdwaras, and apple orchard owners too did not sleep in their houses that night and next morning helped us in returning back to Punjab. We have left our apple crates and advances given to orchard owners as well. We did not bring any apples back. Farmers are now calling us to come again….but we have categorically told them that we will not come as our lives are more important than apples.”
Gurdev was in Shadimarg, 20 km from Trenz village, when this incident happened. “I never wanted to take any risk. Few workers were also with me. My material worth Rs 5-7 lakh is still stuck there. Workers’ bikes are also lying there which we take from Punjab by loading them in tempos.”
While Popli was killed, apple trader Sanjay Charaya was injured in the terror attack and is recovering in Srinagar.
Arjun, another trader from Abohar who was at the spot when terrorists stuck, said that the attackers had specifically asked for Channa and Sanju (Charanjeet and Sanjay Charaya). Gurdev said a few persons had told the contractor at the Shopian village to ask apple traders to return, but the message wasn’t conveyed to traders from Punjab.
Sushil Kumar, another trader who had 25 employees in Shadimarg area, said,”Around 25 workers who were doing apple loading and grading work were there. Our loss is of around Rs 5 lakh, but we came back. Though farmers are calling us repeatedly, but we have not given going back a thought. We have asked them to send our material, but even that is not being done by them.”
Bharat Dudeja of Abohar’s DR Fruits said,”I was in Drabgam in Pulwama area where there was proper safety by Army and hence we felt safe. I came back on October 18. Our stock is lying in the orchards of Drubgam. No driver from Punjab is ready to go to J&K to pick stock and from there no vehicle is willing to come to Punjab. My Rs 2-3 lakh payment is also lying with the orchard owners. We visit them every year and this year went after the government assured that it was safe to visit Kashmir. I have no plans to visit again, but will decide as per the situation. The local farmers are keen to work with us, but terrorists are not allowing them to sell their produce. We can bear the loss for this year, but farmers will suffer. We can always find new markets to purchase apples.”
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