Saffron production is a very old agricultural exercise of Kashmir valley. In the entire Kashmir Valley, there is a specific area in Pampore region, an alluvial land that is the only place where saffron is cultivated. The peculiarity of the soil on which saffron is grown is exclusive to the area and nowhere else in the valley the saffron is grown. In ancient times saffron was one of the prime commodities that were carried along the famous Silk Route to different parts of the world. At one time it was the mainstay of Kashmir economy.
Saffron production is an art and the farmers who have been carrying the profession of saffron cultivation from generation to generation are adepts in the art. It is a purple coloured flower that blooms in late autumn and is picked by hand and then treated in a way known to the farmers. We gave reports that this year the saffron production will fall by about 90 per cent which will be a big setback to the economy of the State and to the income of individual farmers. The reason given by the farmers is that the Government did not provide irrigation facilities at proper time which caused damage to the crop.
Actually in 2010 the Mission Saffron was launched by the State Government with the collaboration of the Union Government. A sum of rupees 400 crore was allotted to modernization and improvement of saffron cultivation in Kashmir. But as ill luck would have it, the scheme instead of proving a boon to the saffron cultivation became their bane. Never before have had these agriculturists faced such a disastrous year. The complaint of most of the farmers of the locality is that the Government under the Mission Saffron project had decided to dig 109 tube wells to provide water to the crop. Instead of 109 only 90 wells have been dug and most of these are dysfunctional. The authorities did not pay attention to the urgent need of providing water to the crops with the result that the flowering did not take place. Some of the farmers went to the extent of saying that the mad scheme of bringing in modern cultivation formula was disastrous and if they had stuck to the traditional ways of saffron cultivation they would not have to face the failure of the crop. They said that they were advised to use cow dung as manure but it proved disastrous.
The question is did the Government weigh the pros and cons of the scheme called Mission Saffron before implementing it actually on the ground? As said in the beginning saffron is a very very delicate flower and even the slightest mistake or mishandling will spoil the crop. That is precisely what happened. In a mad rush for modernization and with the only one motive of producing more quantitatively, great damage has been done to the industry. Now, before everything else the Government should consider the ways and means how the traditional methods of cultivation can be revived and reserved so that this fabulous industry is not subjected to wanton destruction.
However, it is also important that the Government should order departmental enquiry into the reasons for the failure of the crop. If it was owing to draught and deficiency of water for irrigation, the reasons should be made public and corrective measures should be taken so that this does not happen again. It is also important to ensure that the environs and the air in the locality are free of pollution and also the chemicals if used as manure need to be tested in the laboratory. We have apprehensions that spurious chemicals might have been supplied to the farmers. Therefore a full enquiry should be conducted into this episode and the farmers who have suffered more than 60 per cent loss should be given financial support.