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Establishing Harsil Valley and Its Apples Firmly On the Tourist Circuit

To help the farmers of Harsil Valley in Uttarakhand, the then DM of Uttarkashi, Ashish Chauhan, had started an Apple Festival.

When it comes to best quality apples in India, Himachal Pradesh definitely comes to mind instantly. And, because of the high public demand for Himachal apples, the valley of Harsil in Uttarakhand was losing out, as their apples no longer held the same value in the market as before. As a result, the local farmers of Harsil had even started selling their apples under the tag of Himachal apples to attract buyers, despite being of high quality on its own.

To solve this problem, the then DM of Uttarkashi, Mr. Ashish Chauhan, had stepped in to help the farmers of Harsil by organising an Apple Festival in this valley of Uttarakhand.

But, not just confining the initiative to apples, the IAS officer also took several steps to further boost the tourism prospects of the picturesque valley.

APPLE FESTIVAL

Harsil village, known for its snow-covered mountains, pine forests, and gorgeous flora and fauna, attracts tourists from all over the country and beyond. But besides the scenic views and the beautiful feel this quaint village has to offer, Mr. Ashish Chauhan also wanted to promote its tasty apples. In 2018, he started a two-day apple festival in Harsil which became an instant hit among the local apple farmers as well as those from other apple growing regions like Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir.

Dance performance at Harsil apple festival

While speaking to Indian Masterminds, Mr. Chauhan said, “This step was taken mainly to boost the efforts of local farmers who were growing the fruit, and to attract more businesses and investors.”

The two-day festival included an apple exhibition, heritage village walk, heritage exhibition, Ganga arti, farmers’ stalls and cultural events.

THE RESPONSE

Mr. Chauhan said that the response from the farmers as well as the people who attended the festival was amazing and they were successful in showcasing a variety of high-quality apples which grow in the Harsil valley. The festival was also supported by the state government and an international apple festival was conducted in the capital city, Dehradun.

The brand ‘Harsil Apple’ has lifted thousands of lives out of poverty in the district and the state, with farmers now using advanced scientific methods for cultivation and marketing opportunities provided by the district administration.

Apple festival in Harsil

There has also been a shift in the price of the product as the farmers are now making 3-4 times of what they were making earlier of the same quantity of apples. Earlier, people used to sell the apples for Rs 50 per kg. However, that has now been increased to Rs 100-200 per kg.

Mr. Chauhan said, “After conducting two festivals in 2018 and 2019 respectively, we also saw an increase in the demand of apples from nearby areas like Saharanpur, etc.”

These efforts of the district administration are bearing fruit, as there has been an increase in the demand for Harsil apples and in the inflow of tourists to the valley.

MORE ABOUT THE OFFICER

IAS officer Ashish Chauhan is known as a fearless and adventure-loving officer among his subordinates. Apart from his usual office work, he takes out time for trekking and identifying new peaks in the region. He even identified two virgin peaks in the valley and named them the Horn of Harsil, after an expedition was conducted with the joint efforts of the Uttarakhand Tourism Development Corporation, Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM) and State Disaster Response Force.

The officer is currently posted as DM of Pithoragarh and is taking up similar initiatives there also, to highlight remote areas of the district as religious spots.

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