The on-going apple season in Himachal Pradesh has put the entire livelihood of apple farmers at stake. The government’s indifference in handling the situation has been pathetic as only action happening is in the media where tall claims are being fed in daily statements by the ministers.
Earlier apple used to be a high paying crop, one reason people were well off in the apple belt. Nothing wrong in this as the money so earned was by of hard work in the orchards. Shanta Kumar once traveling through Kumarsain, seeing the sun lit roofs in Kotgarh, across the valley had quipped, ‘Yahan to chandi ki chatt lagi hain’. (People here have roofs of silver)
It is under this mind set that his party approaches the apple belt of the state. With time the apple producing areas in the state increased to Karsog and Balh valleys in Mandi district, Kullu, Kinnaur and far up to Chamba and Spiti. So what happened? Anywhere the apple came in the state, the area became an eyesore for this party.
Shanta Kumar’s earlier stint as Chief Minister was a disaster when he tried to bully the apple farmers. I had written about this in detail in my Hindi blog. Ninteen years is a long time to forget old hatred. With time new faces came into the BJP who talked a lot about ’emotional unity’ in the state. This time the apple belt too was generous with the BJP and handed over the three most prestigious seats in Shimla district with record margins including the state capital Shimla and two other seats, Jubbal Kotkhai and Rohru, which were earlier represented by former Congress chief ministers.
For the first time the Congress was confined to Kumarsain, Rampur and Choupal. Else all seats went to the BJP. This was a sign of maturity on part of the voters in the district which still after the Shanta experience voted for the BJP.
What all happened in this harvest season is there for everyone to see. Though the voters showed maturity on their part, the party still could not shed off it’s hatred to the people in apple belt.
Shockingly, the BJP government has now resorted to full blown lies. The entire government and party machinery is mouthing lies day in and out which has resulted in anger in the entire apple belt.
It is not only the Shimla district which is bearing the brunt but the situation is the same in Mandi, Kullu and Kinnaur districts. Above all the government response in the assembly was an eye opener.
BJP MLA, Renu Chaddha said on record that the government had priorities other than the apple season. Speaking about traffic jams in Shimla district she said what was wrong with these? Traffic jams are a sign of progress.
This is the mind-set with which the BJP government is working. What other priorities the govt has when entire economy of people of three districts is at stake? Renu Chaddha is a big hotelier and runs a four star hotel in her home town. One can very well imagine how much she is in sync with the realities of rural and farm life.
Life may look rosy when seen from the prism of a star hotel. But ask the farmers who slog day in and out around the year and then are justified the problem of jams as sign of progress!!
We, apple growers look at these hotelier turned politicians with a pinch of salt. Shanta Kumar was one of them. (He owns a hotel in Palampur)
Running a hotel and dealing with farmers cannot be equated madam!!
This indifference of the state government will ultimately prove costly for everyone. Already hill people are debating what lies ahead in future. There has been no real development in this part of the state.
Both the BJP and the Congress has been playing football with the people. Every five years they exchange places.
While BJP has not minced any words and action in it’s hatred to the hill people, the Congress all these years simply did nothing for the area.
Be it the Raja or the Madam or anyone else, they have simply used the people as vote bank to enjoy power in Shimla for such a long time.
No real development in the area will occur in this ping pong match between BJP and Congress. Both the Congress and BJP are now being run as private limited parties with ‘families’ controlling the entire power in the state. Common people will not get any development in this struggle between these two ‘royals.’
Only way the people in apple producing areas can have some say in governance is by forming a Hill Council as has been done in Darjeeling in West Bengal. The Gorkhas, after being neglected by the mainland Bengalis have finally managed a say in the administration.
Though Hill Council can be a viable alternative to get rid of the apathy of the Congress / BJP governments, it is something which will not be handed on platter. People will have to really fight for it.
Already the ground is getting prepared as hill people are being pushed to the wall. People here have long been taken for granted.
The experience shows it is only when the stones are pelted that the government wakes up!
What do you say? Speak up in comments below.