The State Government would be strengthening the marketing and cold chain network in the State to ensure remunerative prices to the growers round the year. This was stated by Prem Kumar Dhumal, Chief Minister while addressing a public meeting at Narkanda in Shimla district today after dedicating newly constructed cold store completed at a cost of Rs. 505 lakh and computerised Grading and Packing Line created at a cost of Rs. 163 lakh at Jarol Tikkar (Kotgarh) and computerised Grading and Packing Line at Oddi (Kumarsain) completed at a cost of Rs. 163 lakh to apple growers of the area and performing foundation stone laying ceremony of Science Block of Government Senior Secondary School, Narkanda to be constructed at a cost of Rs. 60 lakh. Earlier, he dedicated Kaunthru village road constructed at a cost of Rs. 205 lakh to the people of the area.

Chief Minister said that with the opening of cold storage in public sector, apple growers would be facilitated with storage facility for their horticulture produce so that they could market their produce round the year at appropriate time to get remunerative price. He said that although the private parties had created cold chain in the State but at the same time the State Government had also decided to provide growers fully equipped cold chain, packing and grading facilities so that the produce was available for marketing year round. He said that State Government had sanctioned Rs. nine crore for construction of Matiyana-Parala Subzi Mandi road for which tenders had been floated. He said that additionally, marketing yard network was also being strengthened by upgrading infrastructure facilities to facilitate growers to sell their produce locally and save them from exploitation at the hands of middlemen.

Prem Kumar Dhumal said that new record of development had been created during past four and a half years which had been appreciated by national and international agencies. He said that Himachal Pradesh had been ranking at number one position in implementation of 20-Point Programme for the last three years consecutively. He said that in horticulture sector also, Himachal Pradesh ranked at number one in the country besides among top three States in best HRD indictors. He said that Himachal Pradesh had been adjudged best State for reduction in the gap between rich and poor. He said that State Government had many first positions to its credit in different sectors which had resulted into winning 67 awards during last four and a half years.

Chief Minister said that State Government was endeavouring to strengthen horticulture sector by replacing old root stocks with high yielding varieties of plants being imported from apple growing countries and after multiplication distributed to the apple growers. He said that endeavours of the

State Government had been to increase per acre yield from existing 5-7 metric tonnes to 50 metric tonnes so that growers were benefitted for the hard work they had been putting in. He cited example of Israel which being a desert country had been producing yield between 50-60 metric tonnes per acre. He said that variety of fruit cultivation was being encouraged to involve entire horticulture community to make horticulture profitable avocation.

Chief Minister criticised the preceding Government for ignoring the interests of fruit growers and said that it had not provided them sufficient support prices under Market Intervention Scheme (MIS). He said that it was during previous BJP regime 1998-2003 when support price for apple was increased three times and now for current season it had been increased to Rs. 6 per kg. He said that Congress Government in Delhi had changed the law which enacted by the BJP Government in Delhi under Chief Ministership of Shri Sahib Singh Verma relating to waiving of commission being charged from growers of the State by the middlemen in Delhi markets.

He said that State Government had raised the issue of commission to be charged from buyers instead of growers which had been cleared from the Delhi High Court but instead of implementing the decision of the High Court the Delhi Congress Government changed the law and imposed commission upon the growers. He said that with a view to save growers from exploitation, network of marketing yards within the State was being strengthened so that buyers were attracted to visit the State and purchase produce from them. He counted the achievements of the State Government during last four and a half years and said that there had not even one section of the society left uncovered under one or other schemes launched by the State Government. He said that work on ITI building at Kumarsain would be started on priority and Naib Tehsildar would be visiting Narkanda for one week in a month to oversee the revenue and administrative works of the people residing in and around Narkanda area.

Narinder Bragta, Horticulture Minister thanked the Chief Minister for dedicating the first cold storage to be managed by HPMC for apple area of the State. He said that 109 crore had been disbursed to the growers under MIS during last four and a half years comparison to only Rs. 19 crore disbursed during Congress regime. He said that Rs. 85 crore Apple Replantation Scheme was under implementation to replace the old root stocks with high yielding varieties of apple. He thanked the Chief Minister for bringing apple and mango under Crop Insurance Scheme and also include hailstorm under the scheme. He said that in district Shimla only 13 marketing yards were being upgraded and expanded to accommodate produce and vegetable of growers. He remembered Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee for his gesture towards fruit growers of the State and for imposing custom duty on imported apple during his tenure under NDA regime which had facilitated the fruit growers of the State in marketing their produce conveniently. He said that the work on Rs. 100 crore Parala Subzi Mandi was in progress and would facilitate the growers immensely in coming years.

Sandeepani Bhardwaj, Member, National BJP Kisan Morcha Executive Committee welcomed the Chief Minister and thanked him for adding one more chapter of development in Theog-Kumarsain area by dedicating cold storage and packing and grading line well before beginning of apple season. He also apprised Chief Minister of various other demands of the area.

Gian Chandel, Chairman, APMC, Om Prakash, President Nagar Panchayat, Narkanda, Dwarka Dutt Sharma, President, Theog-Kumarsain BJP Mandal, Chander Shakhar Pandit, S.P., Madan Chauhan, Managing Director, HPMC, senior officers and prominent persons of the area were present on the occasion among others.