SHIMLA: Himachal Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal while replying on a debate in Vidhan Sabha on Tuesday regarding the bad plight of roads in the apple belt of the hill State said that the recent rains have caused a massive damage to the state road infrastructure to the tune of about Rs 170 crores. Not only the national and state highways but the link roads in villages are also greatly affected, he said. The hill state which is suffering from a problem of plenty vis-à-vis the apple crop has also experienced unusually high rainfall this time which in turn has advanced the plucking of fruit.
The BJP MLAs led by the Chief Minister and Horticulture Minister Narendra Bragta forcefully defended the government’s efforts and preparations in transporting and marketing the crop both within and outside the state. K R Balnath, MLA from the apple growing belt of Rohru said more than 1.05 crore apple boxes have been sent to various markets against a figure of just 30 lakhs last year. The State government is charging on road tax from the vehicles coming from outside the State and the farmers are getting handsome price for their produce. It is the BJP government which had created state’s own mandis (markets) in Solan, Rampur and Rohru and that have saved the farmers from various commission agents outside the State, he said.
Earlier, while initiating the debate under rule 63, Leader of Opposition Vidya Stokes said that a virtual collapse of road network has occurred in apple growing areas. Herself a big apple grower she said the government has not found any alternative roads or markets for the farmers who are contributing more than Rs 2000 crores to the economy of the hill state. She alleged that ripened fruit is rotting on the roads at various places in anterior Shimla.
Mr Kuldip Singh Pathania of Congress demanded a comprehensive policy on the road and transport network in the state. There is almost a negligible air or rail network in the state, he said. Mr Kaul Singh Thakur of Congress said the road condition had worsened because of the ongoing road widening project undertaken by a Chinese multinational company. The BJP blamed the UPA government for cancelling the visa of Chinese engineers for more than a year which had delayed this project. The broadening work has been temporarily suspended by the government for the smooth movement of traffic in the apple belt.
Edited by: Johar Singh