Exploring Agriculture solutions in Jammu

Veena Parmar
A week preceding Maharaja Hari Singh’s 126th Jyanti on 23 September, a lot was written and spoken about reforms that maharaja brought about during his rule for which he is widely acclaimed. His agriculture reforms caught my imagination more than anything else when it was learnt that to promote agriculture production in the state, when the grains production was declining, he ploughed himself and inspired the farmers to produce more to minimise poverty and hunger. Maharaja is said to have given extraordinary attention to modernize agriculture sector. Farmers were granted proprietary ownership rights and immunity from the taxes or levies of Nazrana and Malikana. Govt provided loans for the improvement of agricultural lands, livestock and rural economy with easy procedures and installments. Peasantry without land were allowed to dwell on the Khalsa land with ownership rights. The focus of Agriculture Dept, which was to Kashmir only was progressively extended to the Jammu.
65 % of UT population lives in rural areas out of which approximately 70 % male population is involved in agriculture and allied activities. No data about women population engaged in such activities is available. Women are in agriculture in Kashmir as seen by Prime Minister Narendra Modi lauding Zaitoon Begum of Gandherbal for practicing innovative agriculture in her land for which she said scientists and experts of various depts trained her and keep visiting farmers regularly. But what is of interest to me is PM’s statement, (i) helping farmers is top priority of the govt, (ii) focus will be on Kashmir even if not said in so many words. Hence I am not very optimistic of robust agriculture initiatives in Jammu to assist Jammu farmers in commercialisation of agriculture production.
Creation of rural infrastructure is essential for agriculture growth. Infrastructure is considered pre-requisite for takeoff and attracting various agriculture activities which successive govts have been doing. Hence the govt spending on rural infrasture will significantly impact agriculture growth and rural economy. But the pity is that people are giving up agriculture which helped them transform our lives. To reverse the trend, the basic structure of rural agriculture has to change from self contained mode to market oriented inputs and productions for which controversial new Farm Laws have been enacted. It devolves upon Panchayat Raj Institutions to revive agriculture in rural areas, financial institutions to extend loans and UT govt to subsidize inputs.
Women do help men in agriculture activities in rural areas except ploughing. However agriculture as profession for women is an afterthought just as in certain mythologies, the first human being on the earth was a man such as Manu or Adam and Eve was late entry created to be man’s companion. My entry in the agriculture venture is also a similar late entry. My hubby started the ‘animal husbandry venture’ in our village derelict land in Kotli-Tanda during the Corona lockdown when other activities were at a standstill. His return to practice after Courts have opened, exhorted me to take over from where he left. Women are doing well in politics, sports, medicines and engineering. Innovative and enterprising women can make a big difference in the lives of people if they emulate successful experiments of others around them in the field of agriculture and that is what I am looking for.
In his ‘Maan Ki Baat’ premier Mr Modi compliments agriculture entrepreneurs regularly. In his 26 September maan ki baat, PM lauded two Pulwama brothers who found new avenues in agriculture for creating self employment and providing employment opportunities to others. They are showing new path to others, he said. Since I have just begun, I wish more women enthusiastically undertake agriculture activities in rural areas and hear their name in ‘maan ki baat’.
To start with we have 50 odd goats and 40 odd chicken. It took long to create infrastructure for them because of Corona and it took equally long to muster the livestock. Besides the livestock, plantation of fruit/citrus trees, medicinal, commercial and ornamental plants has also been done. The livestock and the plants are growing satisfactorily. There are five people looking after them. Our plan is to multiply the live stock and make it commercially viable. Using their fertilizer, organic vegetables, fruits and medicinal herbs is the next step. There is thought about fruit production in which the focus will be on mulberry, strawberry, karonda, apple-ber, desi mango, papaya, mosambi and dragon fruit etc. In the medicinal plants sector, Directorate of Indian System of Medicines, Jammu, which has been designated as ‘nodal agency’ for the growth of medicinal plants, will be consulted to see suitability and marketability of the medicinal plants. In the vegetable sector, focus will be on traditional rural area vegetables, best known in the society and sought-after. As we proceed and succeed, efforts will be made to start floriculture for which the market is growing in Jammu. Final destination is Dairy at a large scale should reliable veterinary health facilities and finances be available.
After India made big strides in green revolution followed by white, now India is looking at ‘Honey Revolution’. I see plenty of honey scope in Jammu. I often see honey beehives hanging with trees in our land and hear that earlier honey used to be locally harvested and even sold. To promote honey production, central agriculture minister has launched ‘single flower Amul honey’ and financed 4 ‘framers production organisations’ (FPO) and ‘Integrated Bee Keeping Development Centers’ in Kashmir. It is hoped that Jammu will also get govt attention and financial help in increasing honey production. Given the health benefits, there is huge scope of honey production in Jammu. Since the govt is holding the hands of innovative farmers elsewhere, those who are in the farming in Jammu will surely get govt help in their pursuit for innovative farming. Hence when I have ventured into it, I appeal women entrepreneurs to exploit agriculture potential of rural areas. Modern technology and new farming tools can also facilitate women entrepreneurs in farming. Next on my agenda is pickle making from locally available fruits.
Kandi areas lack water availability which is the lifeline of agriculture. Knowing that there is technology which is eco-friendly and water and land use efficient, effort will be made to procure such technology from wherever it is available and see how best it can be utilized. I wish to draw attention of the much acclaimed LG Manoj Sinha led people friendly govt that the terrain of Jammu is hilly and mountainous on which agriculture activities are not lucrative. With climatic conditions unfavourable, most of the agriculture depends upon rainfall. Lack of rural transport, small land holdings, low water table for irrigation avenues, lack of infrastructure and marketing facilities are other problems. They hinder prosperous agriculture. Hence liberal subsidies are essential for agriculture growth in Jammu.
‘Between the Kings and Tyrants there’s this difference known; Kings seek their subject’s good, tyrants their own’; Robert Herrick. How true it is to our erstwhile state and now UT. Rulers sought good of subjects, democratic rulers sought good of their own. Lands were distributed arbitrarily (Roshni Act). Let us be wary of such people and expose them. Let us hope agriculture dept officials enthusiastically come forward to help when it comes to women entry in rural agriculture.