Govt soft-paddling on setting up of Horti University announced over 2 years back

Can’t specify time-frame for
completion of spadework: Admn Secy

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Apr 18: The PDP-BJP Coalition Government is soft-paddling on setting up of maiden Horticulture University in Jammu and Kashmir the announcement about which was made more than two years back in order to ensure intense researches in this sector to increase the productivity and subsequent improve the economy of the State.
The intensity of the non-serious approach can be gauged from the fact that even modalities and financial implications have yet not been worked out despite assurance of all sorts of assistance from the Union Government in establishment of varsity.
The horticulture sector plays an important role in the State and contributes immensely to strengthen the financial condition of the State, poverty alleviation and employment generation. It is a source of livelihood for over 33 lakh population. The horticultural products of the State have earned world-wide fame because of their good quality and taste.
In order to give necessary impetus to this sector, the PDP-BJP Coalition Government felt it imperative to set-up maiden Horticulture University in the State for intense researches in the field for not only sustaining the productivity but also increasing the same.
The announcement regarding establishment of maiden Horticulture University in the State was first made by the then Minister for Horticulture Abdul Rehman Veeri in December 2015 while chairing a high-level meeting of Horticulture Department officers at Srinagar, official sources told EXCELSIOR, adding it was further announced in the meeting that Specialized Horticulture Training Institutes will also be established for capacity building in this key sector.
Thereafter, setting up of Horticulture University became the buzzword and frequently found mention in the official statements of the PDP-BJP Coalition Government. Even it was mentioned in such statements that varsity will be established in North Kashmir which has maximum potential for horticulture sector.
In the month of July last year, the Minister for Horticulture Syed Basharat Bukhari called on Union Minister for Agriculture and broached the matter vociferously. He informed the Union Minister that Horticulture University in J&K was imperative for increasing the annual yield of horticulture produce of Rs 7000 crore to Rs 40,000 crore.
The Union Minister, while asking the J&K Minister to immediately start the process for establishment of Horticulture University, announced that Union Government will provide necessary financial and other related support.
Finally, the Government Vide Order No.235-GAD of 2018 dated February 9, 2018 constituted a high level committee to work out the modalities and financial implications for the establishment of Horticulture University in the State.
The committee headed by Chief Secretary and comprising of Administrative Secretaries of Finance, Planning, Agriculture Production, Horticulture and Law Departments and Dr Farooq Ahmed Zakki, Dean Horticulture Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology- Kashmir (expert member) was even asked to propose the consequential amendments required to be carried out in the SKUAST-Act, 1982.
“The committee has met only once during the past over two months and nobody knows when it will complete the assigned task as in the order of the General Administration Department no time-frame was fixed for the committee”, sources said, adding “in this way no headway could be made on establishment of Horticulture University despite lapse of over two years”.
When contacted, Administrative Secretary, Horticulture Department Manzoor Ahmad Lone admitted that no major headway could be made on the matter so far. “In the Government set-up things move at own pace and you cannot expect desirable results on such an important subject in just one meeting of the high-level committee”, he added.
Replying to a specific query, the officer, who is the Member Secretary of the high-level committee, said, “no time-frame can be specified at present for completion of spadework”, adding “the high level committee has to deliberate on so many aspects before submitting report to the Government”.
“Unless entire exercise is made time-bound the Horticulture University will not become reality during the tenure of PDP-BJP Coalition Government”, sources remarked.