According to a recent study report by the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), J&K ranks at 28th among 30 States and Union Territories in the performance list in terms of adoption of market reforms and farm friendly policies. In other words only two states/union territories lag behind J&K in having lowest record of agricultural reforms. In a State where agriculture remains the mainstay of economy, inability to bring about necessary agricultural reforms speaks a lot for the apathy and mindlessness of the policy planners in the country. It is somewhat surprising that while 70 per cent of the population of the State remains involved in agricultural pursuits, the State lacks in vital reforms that could have helped the State change its complexion and remove poverty to a large extent.
What could be the shape and contours of agricultural reforms if at any future date the Government plans to introduce them. The reform indicators, like setting up market in private sector, farmer-consumer market, contract farming, e-trading, Single Point Levy in market, single trader license, fruits and vegetables out of APMC registration, joining e-NAM and Tax/levies/fee on agricultural commodities are absolutely missing when we caste a glance on agricultural policy and planning. The laws governing land lease or felling of trees are all in force and this shows that the State is steeped in traditional farming system and new and inevitable reforms have been kept aside. According to the estimates made by the NITI Aayog, J&K obtains only just 7.4 points against 81.7 of Maharashtra, 71.5 of Gujarat, 70 of Rajasthan, 63.3 of Haryana, 43.9 of Punjab, etc. Only Delhi and Puducherry, with 7.3 and 4.8 points, are below J&K in the ranking. The study has taken several parameters of agrarian activity into consideration to lay good foundation for bringing about reforms in that sector in future. As we see, the farmers and farm workers are earning much less in comparison to industrial workers. More and more farm land is brought under industrial use and people engaged in agricultural activities are gradually shifting to the rural areas creating new problems for the State and for them also. Comparative study has shown that while non-agricultural sector experiences acceleration in growth, the agriculture sector continues to move on cyclic growth path around long term avenues of 2.75 percent annual rate of growth. As a result, income accruing to farmers and agricultural workers has lagged significantly behind the income of non-agriculture workers. Estimates based on NSSO data for the year 2011-12 classify 22.5 percent cultivator households and 36 percent agricultural labour households as poor.
We would like to know from authoritative sources why our State has been lagging behind other states in the country in bringing about agricultural reforms and thus allowing the farmers to eke out miserable lives. Why should a farm labourer earn less than non-farm workers? That would not be advisable because in that case labourers will not be attracted to work on the farms. We have shortage of farm workers and that is the reason that people from other states like Bihar, UP, Madhya Pradesh etc. have been heading towards Jammu and Kashmir to find employment. In Jammu we have expanded construction work going on especially in the industrial area of Bari Brahamana etc. and these industrial development works engaged a large number of migratory labourers. In Kashmir valley, labourers from outside the State are to be seen in large numbers so much so that they work as farm labourers and in orchards picking up fruit or striking spade in the ground. The land holders engaging these non-state labourers exploit the labour force by paying wages to them that are far less than what an industrial worker or labourer in Jammu and elsewhere earns.
In view of these ground realities, it is important that the Government should consider bringing about agricultural reforms in the State so that exploitation of the farmers is put an end to. Healthy and more beneficial reforms have to be adopted and the obsolete ones must go once for all. The initiative should come from the Minister for Agriculture.