Panel of SKUAST VCs, officers fails to meet deadline for finalization of Agriculture Policy

Dilly dallying approach despite Governor’s serious concern

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, June 4: A committee of Vice-Chancellors of Agriculture Universities of Jammu and Kashmir and senior officers of different departments has failed to meet the deadline for finalization of State Agriculture Policy, the announcement about which was actually made seven years back. The dilly-dallying approach is notwithstanding the fact that Governor N N Vohra and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti are repeatedly laying thrust on effectively neutralizing the annual food grain shortfall and prohibiting conversion of productive arable land for various non-agricultural purposes.
Official sources told EXCELSIOR that nearly two-third of the population of the State is directly or indirectly dependent for its livelihood on agriculture and its allied sectors and in order to take care of all the problems being faced by these sectors it was felt imperative to frame a comprehensive Agriculture Policy.
The announcement in this regard was first made in 2011 by the then Minister for Agriculture Ghulam Hassan Mir in the Legislative Assembly and it was stated that the 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.
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, adding when Governor N N Vohra was managing the affairs of Jammu and Kashmir in early 2016 he issued directions for early finalization of Agriculture Policy for developing and expanding the most important sector of the State.
However, after formulation of Government the issue lost sight of all the concerned authorities and no seriousness was shown towards finalization of the draft policy. The non-seriousness was notwithstanding the fact that in each and every session of the State Legislature the legislators vociferously raised the issue and every time assurances were given by the Government about early finalization of much-needed Agriculture Policy.
After remaining in oblivion for quite long time, the Government Vide Order No.85-Agri dated March 19, 2018 constituted a committee headed by Vice-Chancellor Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST) Kashmir and comprising of Vice-Chancellor of SKUAST-Jammu, Director Sericulture, Directors of Command Area Development and Directors of Agriculture to frame and finalize the State Agriculture Policy.
The committee was directed to keep in mind raising of agriculture productivity and making farming remunerative for farmers (doubling farmers income by 2022), measures to liberalize the agriculture sector reforms from various kinds of controls and restrictions, draught management strategies, organic farming, area specific crops, cropping pattern as per agro climatic zones, identification of areas for stressing traditional way of farming etc while finalizing Agriculture Policy.
As per the order, the committee was supposed to furnish its report to the Government within a period of 15 days-by first week of April this year but till date the committee has not completed the assigned task as a result of which announcement regarding comprehensive Agriculture Policy has failed to become reality even after the lapse of seven years, sources informed.
While Vice-Chancellor of SKUAST-Jammu, Commissioner Secretary to Government, Agriculture Production Department and other members of the committee failed to specify any progress made so far on finalization of Agriculture Policy on one or the other pretext, the Vice-Chancellor of SKUAST-K, who is the chairman of the committee, said that discussions with the stakeholders have been held.
Stating that finalization of policy will take more time, the SKUAST-K Vice Chancellor said, “actually insufficient time-frame was fixed for the committee by the Government”, adding “more discussions are required to be held with left-over stakeholders including farmers but we will try to submit report as early as possible”.
“The dilly-dallying approach is notwithstanding the fact that Governor N N Vohra has repeatedly been laying stress on addressing the issues confronting the agriculture sector so as to neutralize annual food grain shortfall and prohibiting conversion of productive arable land for various non-agricultural purposes”, sources said.
Even few days back Governor had laid stress on reducing agrarian distress and formulating plans for bringing more area under agricultural activities and for farmers’ welfare.