*Concern for shrinking farm land only confined to statements
JAMMU, Mar 2: Establi-shing non-serious approach towards fast shrinking farm land in Jammu and Kashmir, the Agriculture Production Department has failed to come up with new Agriculture Policy which was first announced six years back and subsequently after regular intervals not only in official meetings but also on the floor of the State Legislature.
As per the official figures, 70% of Jammu and Kashmir population depends directly or indirectly on agriculture and its allied sectors and these sectors constitute the mainstay of the State’s economy and contribute nearly 50% to GSDP.
In order to take care of all the problems being faced by this vital sector it was felt imperative to frame a comprehensive Agriculture Policy and announcement in this regard was first made in 2011 by the then Minister for Agriculture Ghulam Hassan Mir in the Legislative Assembly, official sources told EXCELSIOR.
It was stated that new policy will focus on diversification of crops and address the most serious issue of fast shrinking of farm land in different parts of Jammu and Kashmir. Even during the discussion on the functioning of Agriculture Production Department by the Department Related Standing Committee of Legislative Council in 2011-12, the need of having an Agriculture Policy for the State was felt so as to provide a road-map to the department for future planning, execution and implementation of fixed targets and projects.
The Department Related Standing Committee was appraised at that time that Agriculture Production Department was ready to unveil new Agriculture Policy that will lay down a medium to long term road-map for environmentally sustainable and economically viable growth in the agriculture and allied sectors.
“Thereafter, some exercise was conducted by the Agriculture Production Department and draft of the policy was prepared for holding deliberations before its finalization. However, no seriousness was shown thereafter and the draft continued to gather dust in the official files”, sources said.
When Governor N N Vohra was managing the affairs of Jammu and Kashmir in early 2016 the issue of finalizing Agriculture Policy received the required attention and on March 16, 2016, Advisor to Governor Khurshid Ganai, while inaugurating Kissan Mela at SKICC Srinagar, stated that Government was working on a new Agriculture Policy which will go a long way in developing and expanding the most important sector of the State.
He had stated that new Agriculture Policy to be formulated by an expert committee comprising Vice-Chancellors of Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences & Technology-Kashmir and Jammu would take care of all the problems being faced by this vital sector and even address the grave issue of unabated conversion of agriculture land for non-farming purposes.
“During the Budget Session of State Legislature held at Srinagar in June last year, the delay in finalization of Agriculture Policy was raised vociferously by several legislators while expressing concern over mushrooming of brick kilns and residential colonies on agriculture land”, they further informed, adding “at that time it was announced that policy was being finalized”.
However, even six years after its first announcement and three years after preparation of its draft the new Agriculture Policy has failed to become reality thereby making it clear that issues confronting the vital sector are not being taken seriously even by the present dispensation, sources remarked.
When contacted, a senior officer of the Agriculture Department, on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that draft of the policy has not been finalized till date. He disclosed that no official meeting has been held on the subject during the past quite long time.
“It is a matter of concern that on one side agriculture and allied sectors are being dubbed as backbone of the State’s economy and on the other side casual approach is being adopted towards formulation of Agriculture Policy”, sources regretted, adding “if the present state of shrinking of agriculture land continues unchecked, it would adversely affect the agriculture and allied sectors, which in turn, would be disastrous for the environment”.