Railway expansion gives sleepless nights to Shopian’s apple growersBreaking

March 18, 2024

A recently macadamized road making its way through dense apple orchards from Shopian town, some 66 km south of Srinagar, leads to Reshipora village. The small village comprising 300 households has been in deep distress since the Railway authorities started carrying out a survey in the village for laying a railway track. The entire village relies on apple cultivation for its livelihood, with over 85 percent of the district’s population directly or indirectly reliant on the apple economy. The proposed railroad cuts through orchards in the apple-rich village, raising fears among people of losing their source of survival besides land to the railway project. The Indian government has begun expanding the railway infrastructure in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). Apart from the construction of the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Railway Link (USBRL), which connects Jammu with Kashmir, the Indian government has completed the Final Location Surveys (FLS) for several other rail lines in Kashmir including the 27.6 km new line between Awantipora and Shopian.

The village is engulfed in distress with anguish etched on every face. Over the last few weeks, the disconcerted farmers have made fervent appeals to the government to divert the proposed line from the village. “Around 75 to 85 per cent of residents are bound to lose their apple farms if the railway line is laid through the village,” said Abdul Ghani Reshi, a resident and apple grower. He said that the demarcation by the Indian railway officials in the village was giving them sleepless nights. Last week, the farmers hit the streets to protest against the acquisition of land by the railways after a knot of officials suddenly showed up in their apple farms to demarcate the land. “We will be left with nothing. These orchards are the only source of our livelihood. The move will result in the felling of thousands of apple trees in the area,” said Muzaffar Ahmad Malik, a farmer. Malik’s orchard sprawls over 6 kanal and has been earmarked for the railway line. “It took me more than 25 years to raise this orchard and now when it has entered the full fruit-bearing stage, the government is all set to snatch it from me,” Malik said.

Credit: Independent News Pakistan (INP)