In a significant move aimed at integrating the picturesque Shopian district onto the tourism map of the state, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed Wednesday announced creation of a new Shopian-Pir Ki Gali-Dubjan Tourism Development Authority. To make the Mughal Road more reliable, he also indicated that the construction of tunnels in the vulnerable stretches of the road will be taken up with the Centre for funding. The Chief Minister made these announcements during his visit to Shopian, where he inaugurated the new Mini-Secretariat Complex and also laid the foundation stone of the proposed Mega Fruit Mandi. While the Mini-Secretariat will house all line departments under one roof and facilitate public delivery in the relatively new district, the flourishing horticulture industry of Shopian will receive a huge fillip by setting up of the new Fruit Mandi. Minister for Horticulture, Haj & Auqaf, A. R. Veeri, Minister for Revenue, Javaid Mustafa Mir and Minister for Transport, A. G. Kohli, who is also the Chairman of District Development Board Shopian, were present on the occasion. Highlighting the huge tourism potential of Shopian, Mufti Sayeed said creation of a new development authority will bring into limelight some of the most scenic places in the district. “Beauty is in great abundance here and one needs to travel on the historic Mughal Road to catch a glimpse of its stunning beauty,” he added. Describing Shopian as an intellectually fertile district, the Chief Minister also referred to the significant contribution of horticulture and handicraft industry which sustained J&K’s economy when it fell on hard times. He also made specific mention of the government’s plan to offer Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) to farmers in the apple towns of Shopian and Sopore by procuring C-grade fruit to maintain quality and crop insurance which covers farmers against the vagaries of weather. “I have asked Horticulture Minister to strengthen the enforcement wing so that sale of spurious pesticides is also controlled,” he added. Spelling out his plan to establish a Mega Fruit Mandi at Shopian, Mufti Sayeed it will be multi-faceted with facilities of online marketing, CA stores, truck terminal and grading and packaging line. He also stressed upon exploring air and rail transportation of fresh fruit to outside markets. “In order to increase shelf life of fruit, the traders must use refridgerated trucks for transport,” he suggested. Citing the example of high-density orcharding by a young entrepreneur at Bamdoora, the Chief Minister called upon the farmers to rejuvenate their orchards by high-yielding rootstocks that bear fruit after relatively a shorter gestation period. In order to protect the Fruit Mandi from any future threat of floods, the Chief Minister viewed a detailed presentation by I&FC Department, which has prepared a plan to fortify the Rambiara Nullah embankments. “The Fruit Mandi will also have a Guest House which will facilitate traders from outside the state,” he added. The new Mega Fruit Mandi proposed at Aglar will come as a shot in the arm for Shopian’s fruit industry, the mainstay of the district’s economy with total annual production of 2.50 MT and income to the tune of Rs.500 crore. Conceived at a total project cost of Rs.50 crore, an amount of Rs.5.89 crore will be spent in Phase I under NABARD funding. The existing fruit mandi at Shopian, which is spread over 32 kanals of land, is not able to cater to the needs of the burgeoning fruit business in the district. Hailing his unparalleled leadership qualities, A. R. Veeri, thanked the Chief Minister for flagging horticulture as the priority area of the government. He threw light on the department’s plans to develop a fruit mandi on most modern lines so that the fruit growers get the best economic returns for their produce. Speaking on the occasion, Javaid Mustafa Mir congratulated the people for the new Mini-Secretariat Complex as well as laying of foundation stone for a new Fruit Mandi. In his address, A. G. Kohli, credited the Chief Minister for constructing Mughal Road and setting up Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University in his first stint as Chief Minister between 2002-05. “Shopian is the gateway to Poonch and Rajouri and the PDP-BJP government will work with great enthusiasm under the visionary leadership of the Chief Minister,” he added. Earlier, after his arrival, the Chief Minister inaugurated the Mini-Secretariat Complex, which is spread over 114 kanals of land. He went around the premises and directed MD JKPCC to prepare a concept plan for landscaping the campus, which will improve the aesthetics of the place. A 24×7 J&K Bank ATM facility was also commissioned by the Chief Minister on the occasion. Constructed at a cost of Rs.36.89 crore by JKPCC at Arhama, the Mini-Secretariat Complex will provide accommodation to 40 departments in 116 rooms. With 36 halls, the complex will have added paraphernalia of helipad, cafeteria, and a botanical garden to add to its splendour. The DC Office, which till recently was housed in Forest Complex, was facing a huge space crunch resulting in many hardships to the people. Also present were Legislators, Advocate Mohammad Yousuf Bhat, Aijaz Ahmad Mir, Zaffar Manhas, former MLAs, Abdul Gaffar Sofi and Abdul Razzaq Zawoora, Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Asgar Hassan Samoon, DIG SKR, Neeraj Kumar, Deputy Commissioner, Shopian, G. M. Dar and MD JKPCC, Dalip Thussu.
2015 Kashmir Despatch