Jammu & Kashmir News

It is official now; Forest Dept formally hands over 69 hectares land for AIIMS in Jammu

ZT News Network 

Jammu, April 23: The Forest Department of Jammu & Kashmir today formally handed over 69 hectares of forest land to Heath Department for the construction of the proposed AIIMS at Vijaypur, an official press statement today said.

Environmentalists frown on the growing trend of using forest land for large development projects.

The initiation of construction work on a similar All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Kashmir is yet to start despite passing of nearly two years since union government’s approval.

The Rs 2000 crore project is being executed by Central Public Works Department (CPWD). 

The union government in May 2016 gave green signal for constructing the AIIMS at Awantipora near Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST) near Srinagar-Jammu highway.

The transfer of the 69 hectare forest land to the Health Department has come after the final nod of the transfer by the Chief Secretary-led Forest Advisory Committee for forest land transfer clearances. 

DDC Samba S. Rajinder Singh Tara, C.M.O Samba Rajinder Sambyal, D.F.O Samba Abhijeet Joshi, S.D.M Vijaypur Sanjeev Gupta, Nodal Officer AIIMS Dr Puri & other officer of CPWD were also present on the occasion, an official press statement today said.

J&K govt. constitutes PMU to support state plan on Climate Change

JAMMU, APRIL 18: The Jammu & Kashmir government today constituted a Project Management Unit (PMU) to support State Climate Change Centre/Cell at the Department of Ecology, Environment and Remote Sensing for effective implementation of State Plan on Climate change.

According to an order issued by the General Administration Department (GAD), the Administrative Secretary, Forest, Environment & Ecology Department has been designated ex-officio Chief Executive Officer of the PMU while Director, Ecology, Environment and Remote Sensing Department has been designated ex-officio, Nodal Officer. The Members of the PMU include Coordinator, Climate Change Centre/Cell under NMSHE, Department of Ecology, Environment and Remote Sensing and Representatives (not below the rank of Additional Secretary) of Nodal Departments involved in the implementation of State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC).

The terms of reference of the Project Management Unit include supporting development of the project proposal and DPR for the priority actions proposed under the SAPCC and support J&K Climate Change Cell in sourcing funding from Government Institutions or External Funding Agency; approve annual action plans; review of progress through APRs/APRs, Monitoring and Evaluation

of project input, activities and impact; utilize capacity building and monitoring & evaluation (M&E) funds; coordinate with the Working Groups and State Missions for Planning and convergence; climate change research for filling up of data gaps; maintain of robust MIS; promote Knowledge Management and policy advocacy through

workshop, seminar and participatory community level programme; responsible for judiciary compliances and shall issue directions to all project Implementing Units (PIUs) and shall exercise powers including withdrawal of funds and change in PIU, in case of non- delivery/delivery below prescribed conditions; and co-opt any policy, research and academic professional or expert for effective implementation of State Action Plan on Climate Change, as and when required.

The Project Management Unit shall be serviced by the Forest, Environment & Ecology Department.

Close the deal

Give customers a reason to do business with you.

969 MW Neelum-Jhelum Hydro Project inaugurated in PAK

CHATTAR KALAS (Pakistan Administered Kashmir), April 14: 

Prime Minister of Pakistan Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Friday inaugurated the Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

The run-of-the-river power scheme is designed to divert water from the Neelum River to the power station on the Jhelum River and will produce 969MW of electricity.

Meanwhile, a Chinese delegation has expressed its interest in joint ventures with Pakistan in the energy sector, mainly in Pakistan administered Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir.

During a meeting with the Pak-China Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCJCCI) in Lahore on Friday, the delegation presented numerous propositions that could be included in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and would promote allied investment from China’s private sector.

At the Neelum-Jhelum Hydro Project inauguration event, Pakistani prime minister further said that the construction for the project was started in 2008 but, due to poor planning and a lack of funds, it continued to remain a major challenge. The PM added that in 2013 when the government was formed, the Neelum-Jhelum dam had only seen a progress of 10-12 per cent and several people advised the government to abandon the project altogether.

The Chairman of Pakistan's Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda), retired Lt Gen Muzammil Hussain, said the Neelum-Jhelum project would generate five5 billion units annually to earn Rs 50 billion. He said that production cost was Rs 2.5 per unit but its tariff would be Rs 9-10 per unit to finance the loans taken from financial institutions. Mr Hussain added that the Exim Bank of China had given a $1 billion loan for the project.

He further added that government had collected Rs 68 billion from power consumers through the Neelum-Jhelum surcharge, which would be over by end of the year. He urged the government to end the PC-1 and PC-2, to enhance the capacity of institutions and end political interventions in national institutions and build capacity of local companies.

Speaking of the Neelum-Jhelum dam, Prime Minister PAK Raja Farooq Haider said that Nawaz Sharif deserved all praise for completing the project. Mr Haider demanded that 250 MW electricity be allocated to PAK so that load shedding could be reduced. He further demanded to give Rs 1.10 per unit net hydel profit at par with KPK and Punjab. He also demanded to remove hurdles in issuing NOC to foreign investors. Mr Haider finally requested the PM Abbasi to give the 614 cusecs water allocated to PAK.

Poultry in J&K: Bagh and the Backyard Revolution

Ziraat Times brings to its readers this special report on how increasingly popular Bagh and the Backyard (2B) Poultry farming in Kashmir division is likely to usher in a poultry production revolution across Jammu & Kashmir

Jammu and Kashmir State, especially the Kashmir region, is on the brink of a revolution  in poultry.

In the last two decades, demand for poultry has significantly increased. So has the local  production as well as the imports.

Several government promotional initiatives coupled with private sector ventures have given a fillip to the poultry industry in the state, but the gap between the demand and the local production continues to be wide.

Significant reliance on imports results in loss of jobs and aggravation of balance of  payment situation for J&K state.

But there is silver lining visible on the horizon.

Two  path breaking ideas- Bagh Poultry Farming (Horti-poultry farming) and Backyard farming are gaining  immense popularity. If popularised at a larger scale, Jammu & Kashmir could very much achieve self sufficiency in poultry. Even better, it would be  a shift to healthy poultry consumption considering the  health concerns being voiced about the genetic modification and over 

consumption of medicines, mainly antibiotics, in the formal poultry industry. 

Ziraat Times set out to understand current state of the poultry sector in the state, the dynamics of the supply and demand and the potential for large scale initiatives in expanding the production base. 

We talked to poultry experts, farmers, organised poultry farming units, policy makers and others in trying to understand how the potential in the sector could be optimally harnessed. Here is what we find:

In recent years while the poultry consumption has significantly increased, so have imports. The good thing is that local production base is expanding. With the latest progress in horti-poultry and backyard poultry, there is tremendous scope for scaling up these ideas for reducing reliance on imports.

Livestock activities contribute about 11 % to J&K's GSDP. 

According to the 19th Livestock Census (2012)​, the ​total poultry population ​in the ​Kashmir ​division has increased from 38.08 lakh in 2007 to 53.21 lakh in 2012, registering an increase of about 40% between the two census periods. 

This increase has been primarily in organized sector where the poultry population has increased from 12.17 lakh in 2007 to 32.43 lakh in 2012. 

Total number of poultry farms has also shown an increase from 586 in 2007, 1,437 in 2012 to 4,720 in 2014- 15. The percentage of improved variety of birds in backyard sector has also shown an increase from 5.31% in 2007 to 17.91% in 2012.

​Despite all this impressive growth, reliance on imports remains high.​ It is here where greater private ventures could help in reducing reliance on imports and create jobs within Jammu & Kashmir.

​Presently, about 70 crore eggs​ and ​5 to 6 crore day​-​old chicks are being imported annually ​to meet the demand in the state.

​Although there are reasons to believe that the reliability of the official data cannot be taken for granted, these figures do provide some important insights about the broader state of affairs about the demand of poultry, local production, imports, overall consumption and the gap between the local production and demand. 

But ​can the state go big and fill in the demand gap by enhancing local production? 

Parvaiz Nabi, ​a ​Scientist​ with​ Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) Ganderbal, says​,​ "If statistics are anything to go by​,​ 20% of area in the state is under horticulture and a total of 4.5 lakh families are engaged in it. Quite often we have seen a farmer running into losses on account of various natural catastrophes and other ​related reasons. If the same land is integrated with horti-poultry, it will be a win-win situation for the farmer.​"

On Bagh or Horti-poultry, ​Mr Parvaiz says that field trails have been made in Ganderbal and ​it has been concluded that in an area of 1 kanal, 100 birds can be reared which have low cost inputs like provision of mesh wire to keep away predators. 

​"​It has a lot of benefits viz, pulverization of earth by the birds, de-weeding, addition of manicure. These birds​  ​(venraja and roiler)​ ​can be fed on simple kitchen waste and require no further supplements"​, he adds.​

O​rganised poultry industry, on the other hand, thinks that the supply and production challenges with the organised sector need to be addressed on priority for greater efficiency there.

"Our challenges are manifold: diseases and high cost of imported feed", says Imtiyaz Ahmed, a poultry farmer in Handwara.​Poultry feed is, indeed, an important factor in the mass-scale development of poultry in J&K. 

"What is also required is the state-specific schemes under industrial policy to boost local production of poultry feed", says Dr Farooq Ahmed Kaloo, former director, Animal Husbandry Department, Govt of J&K.

There are industry experts who believe that the private sector poultry industry has to be encouraged by shifting it from negative list of industries and bringing the sector under the fold of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), facilitating all the incentives as is available to the MSME sector under central and state package.

Lately, the government also recognises the importance of popularising backyard poultry sector in a big way. 

"The Animal Husbandry department provides birds at subsidized rates to aspiring farmers. Also, incubation facility is available at Hariparbat centre, which includes an added incentive of Rs 3 per egg kept at incubation center. Our priority is the facilitation of availability of protein supplements at homes. The new  ‘national livestock mission ‘has been started to promote poultry farming in the state", Dr Aijaz, Joint Director, Poultry, told Ziraat Times.

The reason backyard and Bagh poultry farming could be a game changer in employment generation in the state is because of the low investments involved in these ventures.

In view of the fact that a big majority of households in J&K own a house with a courtyard or some farming land making a start is really not that difficult.  

What is really interesting is the possibility of rearing desi or native breed of poultry that are known to have greater immunity to disease and have better health benefits compared to the genetically-modified varieties. 

Altaf Geelani, Mobile Officer (Poultry) at Animal Husbandry Department Kashmir, told Ziraat Times that various initiatives have already been taken by the department to promote poultry production in the private sector in a big way. 

"Rural backyard poultry development scheme provides 45 birds free of cost to a farmer. In addition, an amount of Rs 750 is provided for construction of basic shelters in cooperative mode", he added.

While several such units have been established in Ganderbal and other districts, more trails are happening in Budgam district as well. 

"We have started Field Level Demonstrations in this regard, and birds are provided free of cost to farmers. We have to embolden backyard poultry farming, as it is high yielding, disease resistant and self-sufficient", Dr Naseer Ahmad, Program Coordinator, KVK Budgam told Ziraat Times.

Availability of other incentives for prospective entreprenuers

In 2005, the State Government started a Central Sector Scheme namely “Development of Commercial Poultry in the State with the support of NCDC. The main objectives of the scheme are to promote the economy of the State by attaining self sufficiency in poultry and to augment the role of the cooperative sector in economic development of the State.

The funding pattern for the Cooperative Poultry Units to be set up with the financial support of NCDC is Loan Component 50%, Share Capital 20%, Subsidy 25% and Owner’s Contribution 5%.

The loan is repayable over a period of 8 years with a moratorium of 1 year on principal only (not on interest) and attracts a simple interest at the rates applicable from time to time. The Society has to enter into an agreement with the Department to avail the amount.

So far in phase-I, 35 such Poultry Units have been sanctioned by NCDC. Similarly, in phase-II the NCDC has sanctioned 48 poultry projects at a block cost of Rs. 19.29 crore. 

Dr Nazir Ahmad Bulla, Animal Scientist, KVK Budgam, is optimistic that these and other state schemes will be instrumental in replication of success stories.

"Lately, universities have created breeds like venraja, croiler which are suitable for backyard farming. According to reports, their egg production is pegged at around 180-250 units per year with high meat content, which has again stimulated interest among people. Due to all these benefits backyard poultry farming is showing considerable increase", he added.

The Animal Husbandry Department imports high quality Low Input Technology (LIT) breeds of poultry every year, which are reared at the available poultry projects for acclimatisation, multiplication and subsequent rearing at various poultry farms/rearing spaces. 

Some industry experts believe that a policy framework will have to be created that will reduce dependence on imports. They feel that health-sensitive varieties with least reliance on genetically-modified kinds will have to be prioritised.

And there are new entrants in the field, mainly young educated entrepreneurs, who are prioritising desi varieties over imported genetically modified ones.

"I believe people have become very health conscious. Even if they have to pay more for organically-reared desi breeds they will pay more. We are trying to target that segment of the population", says Irrum Nazir, a lady entrepreneur who is teaming up with her friends in setting up a Bagh Poultry farm. 

The full version of this report is produced in Ziraat Times print edition 

Asma Shabir, Saba Reshi and Waleed bin Owais contributed to this report 

India's top travel body to promote "Visit Kashmir" in 2018

ZT News

SRINAGAR: The 3-day Annual Convention and Exhibition of Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) has concluded in Srinagar, Kashmir with a pledge by the top travel body to promote 2018 as “Visit Kashmir Year”.

This kind of a major tourism promotion event was held in Kashmir after a long hiatus of 31 years, rekindling optimism among both local as well as outside travel agents about a new positive turnaround in Kashmir tourism.

President, TAAI, Sunil Kumar while speaking to Ziraat Times said, “We decided to hold the 64th exhibition in Kashmir after cancelling the plan to hold it in China. So it was a big decision for us, but, as usual, Kashmir has not let us down" adding that  650 delegates visited Kashmir and that they were happy with hospitality and love people in the Valley had bestowed upon them.

“At the end of the convention, we have pledged to promote Kashmir tourism on all our platforms. Besides all our official stationery and website will carry “Visit Kashmir” branding which will reach out to thousands of members and clients. We hope this move from a 67-year old reputed organization will help attract more people to Kashmir,” Kumar said.

After successfully holding its three-day 64th Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) convention, the delegates are now enjoying their stay in the lap of nature at Pahalgam, Gulmarg and Srinagar.

The pre and post-convention tour was organized by the Department of Tourism for the visiting delegates as part of its Familiarization (FAM) programme to expose the travel agents to the real experience of warmth and hospitality of the Valley.

President, TAAI, JK Chapter, Zahoor Qari said this convention will go long way in removing the negative perception about Kashmir tourism. 

“It was much needed for our tourism sector which was facing lot of problems because of the negative propaganda unleashed by the some electronic media channels. All the delegates who visited Kashmir were overwhelmed with our hospitality and pledged to promote Kashmir tourism. Infact it is a big thing that TAAI has decided to observe 2018 as “visit Kashmir” program.”

Ather Yameen, General Secretary, Travel Agents Society of Kashmir told Ziraat Times that the TAAI exhibition "had given new lease of life to the tourism sector. It will bring in business and also clear negative perception. It is one of biggest event held in Kashmir not only in tourism sector but across any segment of economy." 

“Travel agents and delegates who visited Kashmir were overwhelmed with love and pledged to spread positive messages,” he said.   

Ismail Al–Haj from Jordan who visited Kashmir for the first time, while explaining his experience said, “I spent few days here and it has really left me speechless. When you make up mind to visit Kashmir, it scares you but after you land here and interact with locals, you feel totally in peace. I think I have enjoyed here more than I can enjoy at any other place.”

Expressing happiness over the successful culmination of the TAAI event,  Former president, Travel Agents Society of Kashmir (TASK), Muhammad Ibrahim Siah told Ziraat Times, “The best thing that could have happened to Kashmir’s tourism sector was this event. We are hopeful that tourist influx would increase manifold and also negative perception about the Kashmir tourism will be  cleared as delegates from across the globe witnessed Kashmir’s hospitality. 

"Further Indigo Airlines has already started promoting tourism to Kashmir which is a good news for us”, he added.

Devesh Kumar Agarwal from Kolkata, opined that the negative perception about the Valley was spoiling its tourism potential which otherwise is one of the most peaceful places for the visitors.

After visiting Pahalgam, Joyti Mayal from New Delhi described Kashmir as ‘Heaven on Earth’ and safest place for women. 

“While travelling, I saw more girls going to school than boys which gives an impression about the women empowerment here. The women have been enjoying their stay here and have loved the way tourists are welcomed and served. It is a real example of how tourism industry should work,” she said.

The delegates also enjoyed playing golf at Pahalgam Golf Course and Royal Springs Golf Course.

Another delegate Lalita Nijhawan said, “I had never imagined that Kashmir’s beauty which is not only confined to mountains or lakes but we have beautiful golf courses here. Kashmir has to be the top priority for a traveller. Everyone should visit this place and enjoy the natural beauty in calm and serene environment which is not available elsewhere,” she said.

Secretary Tourism Sarmad Hafeez said TAAI convention will help send positive signal across the globe that J&K is one of the best tourist destinations. “This was a historic event which we conceived during winter months and it will help revive tourism in a big way. The local experience which delegates will carry back is our success. Every delegate has been overwhelmed by the tourism products we offer. The local travel agents from J&K also had a great networking session at their home places and they have also benefitted,” he added.

Director Tourism Kashmir Mahmood A Shah said TAAI has given Kashmir huge impetus which will revive tourism in a big way. “The travel agents were extremely happy over visiting Kashmir. They have promised to promote Kashmir vigorously. We will be expecting good tourist flow this year,” he said.

This event is the beginning of the phase which would help us a long way, vice president, Travel Tourist Interest Guild, Bashir Karnai, sought to sum up the significance of the event.

J&K embraces path-breaking public expenditure reform

Assembly passes law making government legally bound to ensure time-bound public expenditure, avoid delays in execution of development works and reduce pilferages

ZT News

Jammu, Feb 5: Jammu & Kashmir’s Legislative Council passed the Jammu and Kashmir Appropriation Bill-2018 with a voice vote. The bill was moved by the Finance Minister Dr Haseeb Drabu.

The Legislative Council also passed Rs 95666.97 crore budget for J&K for the year 2018-19, comprising revenue component of Rs 51244.72 crore and capital component of Rs 44422.24 crore.

Pertinently, for the first time in J&K’s fiscal history wide-ranging expenditure reforms have been undertaken in the Appropriation Bill-2018 making the government legally bound to ensure time-bound public expenditure, seeking to avoid delays in execution of development works and reducing pilferages.

By setting timelines for release of money and its utilisation across departments and executing agencies, the Finance Minister has linked expenditure reforms with allocation of funds. 

Enumerating on the Expenditure Reforms factored in the Appropriation Bill, Dr Drabu said the Finance and the Planning, Development and Monitoring Departments shall release both Revenue and Capital budget to all the administrative departments within two weeks of the passage of the Appropriation Bill

He said the administrative departments shall, in turn, ensure release of funds to the subordinate offices within four weeks of their receipt, failing which these funds shall be deemed to have been transferred to the intended DDOs on the dates they ought to have been released by the administrative departments /Controlling Officers. 

“Planning Development and Monitoring Department shall ensure that all plan allocations to be made in the next fiscal bear proper classification, indicating, name of the work/scheme,” Dr Drabu said, adding that in the absence of the schematic classification, the relevant Capex release shall be deemed as invalid and not open to being operationalization.

The Finance Minister said there no payments shall be made by any Treasury/PAO from 1 April 2018, under any expenditure head, if the releases for the same have not been made and further received by the spending and bill passing Officers via BEAMS. “Treasury Officers/PAOs shall be personally liable for making payments on the funds released and received bypassing the BEAMS application,” he said.

Further, the Planning, Development and Monitoring Department shall mandatorily upload on its website the department-wise "Name of the Schemes/Works/Projects", forming part of the Capex budget for the fiscal 2018-19, along with the respective allocations.

Finance Minister also indicated that the procurement plans of the departments for the next fiscal shall be limited by an outermost cap of 60 days, starting 1st April. “From conceiving the nature and quantity of public goods and services to be procured to preparing tenders/RFQs/EoIs to finally awarding the contract, the departments shall compulsorily finish the whole process by 30 May 2018,” he said and added that any spill-over in timelines shall be automatically visited with the appropriate disciplinary actions.

The Finance Minister made it clear that the funds shall be spent only on the approved items of the expenditure and strictly for the purpose they have been released. “There shall be no re-appropriation of funds except where the departments have spent 55% of funds received ending December 2017,” he said and added that however, where their spending levels are below 55%, the remaining 70% funds shall lapse to the Government.

He said the expenditure during the last quarter shall be restricted to not more than 30% of the Revised Estimates. 

“Treasury officers shall have an added responsibility to ensure that the departments are held responsible to the above expenditure ceiling,” he said.

Dr Drabu said the State Share of the Centrally Sponsored Schemes and the expenditure to be incurred on utility shifting, land compensation etc under PMDP projects shall be the first charge on the funds lapsing to the Government during the last quarter.

The Finance Minister made it clear that there shall be, henceforth, no engagement of casual workers, need-based workers etc by any department. 

“The Planning, Monitoring and Development Department shall, invariably, condition all developmental/plan releases to the departments to the unconditional vouchsafing by the latter that they shall refrain from making fresh engagements,” he said.

He said the expenditure reforms across the departments shall further be strengthened by initiating measures including bringing complete transparency in the financial and administrative processes through increased IT interventions, ensuring authorisation of such works for execution only which have prior administrative approval, technical sanction and appropriate financial back up and ensure expenditure monitoring on real-time basis through BEAMS and PFMS.

Dr Drabu said this major expenditure reform follows slew of fiscal interventions made over the past 3 years aimed at making the public spending quick, visible and free from corruption. “This historic law will facilitate completion of projects within the approved allocations without time and cost overruns,” he said and added that it will infuse transparency in the public spending and prevent parking of public funds in the FDRs and, in certain cases, the personal bank accounts of the officers managing a maze of developmental agencies.

Dr Drabu said it is reassuring to note that a broader political consensus is emerging in Jammu and Kashmir to put in place a viable economic framework, a robust fiscal management structure and an achievable budgetary policy.

“I express gratitude to the members of this august house, from both the treasury and non-treasury benches for putting across valuable suggestions on how to further improve the expenditure policy and ensure productive use of the resources in the larger interest of the State and its people,” he said  and added that the fiscal reforms introduced over the past three years are aimed at bringing stabilization in JK’s economy and reduce volatility for economic revival through enhanced investments, public expenditure and widening the net of socio-economic security.

The Legislators, cutting across the political divide, hailed the extraordinary expenditure reforms outlined by the Finance Minister in the Appropriation Bill to ensure fiscal discipline and speedy and productive use of resources for the larger public good. 

Dry, warm winter in J&K: is this the beginning of an end?

It is January 21st. Jammu & Kashmir’s lofty mountains carry little or no snow. The plains are crisp dry. Met Department forecast indicates no major rainfall or snowfall in the coming 2-3 weeks. Globally, average annual temperature is rising. Would this winter mark a catastrophic beginning of climate change in the state? Climate change is a reality. Finance Minister, Dr Haseeb Drabu told Ziraat Times that his ministry will review the situation and fund the necessary research and mitigation measures, if the situation so demands. Even as J&K has a State Climate Change Action Plan, research on this report indicates that the Environment Ministry has done little efforts to raise resources for it and make it outcome-oriented. If J&K doesn't brace up to adapt and mitigate the ill-effects of climate change, a lot will be at stake. If we fail, it might well be the beginning of an end for many beautiful things that we cherish in our natural environment and the food chain.

ZT Research Team

Srinagar, Jan 21: This is not a doomsday scenario yet. But it almost is. So unusually warm is this January in Jammu & Kashmir that flower and leaf buds in certain trees in certain areas are prematurely out. It is the beginning of an end.  

Now imagine when snow and rains would finally arrive in February and March, what would happen to the blossoms? 

This is the havoc that climate change is wrecking to fruit and vegetables in many regions in the world. Jammu & Kashmir is right there, face to face with a real climate crisis.

Sonam Lotus, Director, Meteorological Department, J&K, is cautiously sanguine. Speaking to Ziraat Times, he said that while there was no indication of any marked precipitation in the coming 2-3 weeks in the state, he was hopeful that winter was not over yet. 

“We have experienced snowfall in the month of February before too and that the current dry spell was somewhat similar to the 2105 and 2016”, he added.  

The worry is that it is not only about the precipitation. The month of January is witnessing unusual warmth during daytime. Kashmir valley’s karewas, which have little suspended particulate matter (SPM) in its atmosphere, are receiving abundant and warm sunshine. 

Consequently, buds in some fruit trees have started to emerge. 

For a state whose agriculture and allied sectors are expected to contribute Rs. 24,939 crore to its Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) in 2017-18, it is an ominous situation.

Speaking to Ziraat Times, J&K’s Finance Minister, Dr. Haseeb Drabu, said that his ministry shared the view that this was a situation that required greater attention. 

“We will assess the evolving situation and take remedial measures, as necessary. My ministry would not hesitate in allocating financial resources in mitigating the negative effects of this situation if it persists, mainly on subsistence farming communities in the state”, Dr Drabu said.

Scientists at the Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences (SKUAST)-Kashmir admit that this is an extraordinary situation. 

Speaking to Ziraat Times, Prof. Nazir Ahmad, Vice Chancellor, SKUAST-Kashmir, shared the concerns over the prolonged dry winter and the raised daytime temperatures. 

“As far as horticulture is concerned, the ‘chilling’ requirement is being fulfilled, however, if the day temperature continues to be higher than usual, early budding will be worrisome. Frost injury to blossoms of almonds, peaches, plums and others will significantly affect production”, Prof. Nazir said.

While highlighting the crucial issue of lack of moisture for pre-winter sowing crops, Prof. Nazir says that moisture at this point is critical for fodder crops and oilseeds. Their growth will get delayed in the absence of precipitation.

“Irrigating them is not an option because of minus temperatures”, he added.

Deshbeer Singh, Director, Central Institute for Temperate Horticulture (CITH), Kashmir, believes that the early blossoming was an indication of climate change. “It is Ok if blossoms are appearing in a few places on a small scale. Flowering on a larger scale will have serious consequences”, Mr Singh told ZT. This opinion is echoed by Prof Mushtaq, Director Extension, SKUAST-Kashmir.

“This situation is serious. Potential fruit crops will get damaged. Early blossoms will get blighted due to cold injury. The coming months could mean a hard time for paddy crops”, Prof Mushtaq told ZT.

“With this prolonged dry spell and raised daytime temperatures, agriculture will be adversely affected. There could be water crisis in the coming days. Irrigation will be affected,” Prof. Mushtaq added.

There are others who feel that this situation might not necessarily impact the irrigation water availability later this year.

“There will not be any significant impact on agriculture as of now. People have been massively shifting to horticulture since the 1970s and the demand for irrigation water has gone down 

significantly”, Shakeel Romshoo, Professor, Earth Sciences Department, Kashmir University told ZT. 

Shakeel Romshoo, Professor, Earth Sciences Department, Kashmir University, however, believes that if the dry spell continues in February, there will be serious consequences. 

“Early blossoming due to raised day temperatures will be a major concern”, he added.

Things are no different in the sub-tropical, semi-temperate and temperate zones of the Jammu region.

Rain-fed crops are being affected in the Jammu plains as much as in the Pirpanjal and Chenab valleys. Higher winter temperates are making certain crops mature early.

Ms. Anuradha Gupta, Director Horticulture, Jammu, while admitting that this was a difficult situation, says that the government was abreast with the unfolding situation.  

“Worldwide agriculture is being affected by climatic changes. Scientists across the globe are working on means to cope with the challenges of climate change”, says Ms Gupta, adding that “our horticulture minister, Basharat Bukhari, has framed a committee of leading scientists and experts, including VCs of two leading universities with the mandate to discuss ways to mitigate climate changes and also frame a horticulture policy in this regard.”  

While the situation in the Ladakh region was somewhat different for the region’s normally low winter precipitation, experts believe that the unusually higher winter temperates there would inevitably impact the region’s agricultural system.

“Temperatures in Leh this year do seem higher than last year. While Ladakh region has dry weather conditions throughout the year, the current dry spell in the valley will not affect us. However, it will definitely impact yield and productivity in the valley.”, Avinash Chandra Peer, Chief Agriculture Officer (CAO) Leh told ZT.

Ziraat Times asked Finance Minister, Dr Haseeb Drabu if this prolonged dry spell could jeopardise the agriculture sector’s growth projection of 10.63 % for 2018-19. 

“My understanding is that we will have to monitor the situation across the concerned ministries and take quick remedial measures. And we will do that, considering the new agricultural policy that is currently being framed.”, Dr Drabu said.  

“This situation is something that we would surely factor both in our short and long term planning processes”, Dr Drabu added.

What is interesting is that while Jammu & Kashmir state has a State Action Plan on Climate Change, it is extremely unclear how the state intends to operationalise the action plan. The action plan has several structural lacunae. 

The foremost handicap with the action plan is that it was not preceded by the development of the state’s specific policy and strategy on climate change. An action plan is generally about tangible actions and time frames.

“When we say that adaptation and mitigation are going to be our key strategies in dealing with climate change, we must not lose sight of the kind of financial resources needed, and hence the need for a policy. Climate change adaptation and mitigation require significant financial resources across all critical sectors, particularly in energy, agriculture, healthcare and urban development”, a development economist told Ziraat Times.

One of the most ambitious targets of the State Action Plan on Climate Change is the development of “sustainable habitats.” 

But has the Environment Ministry approached the Finance Ministry with proposals for the necessary financial resources for the same? 

Repeated attempts to reach the Minister for Forests, Ecology and Environment, Lal Singh, did not materialise.

In April, 2017, the state Chief Secretary, B. R. Sharma, chaired a review meeting of the J&K State Action Plan for Climate Change (SAPCC), and underlined the need to conceptualize and develop projects consistent with the guidelines to access financial resources.

However, it is not clear how financial resources could be allocated in the absence of a robust coordination mechanism between the concerned ministries and departments.

Jammu & Kashmir is currently implementing the centrally-sponsored National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA), under the aegis of the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), which aims to make agriculture more productive and climate resilient by promoting location specific Integrated/Composite Farming Systems and so on. 

While some financial resources have been made available under the Rainfed Area Development Programme (RADP), Climate Change & Sustainable Agriculture Monitoring, Modeling & Networking, it is unlikely that the objectives and outcome indicators of these schemes were aligned with the action points of the State Action Plan on Climate Change. 

During 2016-17, Rs. 96.30 lakh has been utilized out of the Rs. 1.53 crore that was made available under Rain-fed Area Development during 2016- 17, which included Rs. 1.42 crore unspent balance and Rs. 11.10 lakh as State share.

Only two districts in Jammu and Kashmir provinces are currently being considered under a pilot initiative for the introduction of climate-resistant crops.

The state’s expenditure on agriculture as a percentage of GSDP was 2.09% in 2015-16. However, as climate change manifests in more profound changes in our agricultural practices and productivity, the government might have to reposition itself by beefing up financial resources and technical capacity in dealing with the challenges of climate change in the state.

Asma Shabir, Managing Editor, Saba Reshi and other ZT staff contributed to this report.

Apples. access. advantage

Agri-Economy in Budget 2018-19: Part-II

Point No. 4:  There is immense inadequacy of refrigerated vans that could transport fruit and vegetables from the CA stores or orchards to markets.  

It is good to note that the Budget 2018-19 has recognised this matter and has proposed 50 per cent interest subvention for procurement of  refrigerated vans by the Farmers’ Cooperatives or private entrepreneurs.


Priority shall be given to the procurement of such vans by farmers’ producer organisations and Self-Help groups.

Speaking to Ziraat Times, President of Cold Storages Association, J&K, Maajid Wafai said that the initiative of interest subvention was a good step. 

Even as the government of India was already providing subsidies on refrigerated vans under the the centrally-sponsored Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH) scheme, this interest subvention scheme by the state is most welcome, Maajid says.

Given that the scheme is prioritising procurement of vans farmers’ producer organisations and Self-Help groups, that element, besides making the fruits of the scheme more inclusive, is likely to strengthen its sustainability as well.

Point No. 5:

For encouraging proper storage  containers to carry apples after they  are plucked from trees immediately  before being transported, the Budget has earmarked one-time grant of Rs. 2 crore for the procurement of carriage containers for apple crop at the farms. 

While this seems to be a good move, it is not clear if Rs 2 crores will be enough to cover all the orchards. When it would come to operationalising this initiative it will be useful to have clear guidelines on prioritisation in spending this money. 

There are important lessons to be learnt from the National Saffron Mission on the development of drip-irrigation infrastructure in farms. Those lessons must guide the implementation of this scheme.

Point No. 6:

Finance Minister has proposed greater thrust on the cultivation of mango and litchi. It is a welcome move. 

However, the proposal of developing nurseries for mango and litchi in the government sector doesn’t sound that exciting. In principle, such nurseries should be set up in the private sector and the government should create an enabling environment for the encouragement of such nurseries.  

Similarly, the move to promote Aloe Vera cultivation in public and private sectors in the Jammu region is a good one.

Point No. 7: The Budget has done something very important - it has recognised the handicap of the orchards in the State being located away from the main roads and highways. 

For reducing the input costs and to improve market access, the Finance Minister has expressed his “willingness to finance an Orchard Connectivity Plan.” The financing of the plan is expected to be sourced from MGNREGA and PWD as well. The idea of Horticulture Department, the Public Works 

Department and Finance Department in designing connectivity plans sound good. If well designed and implemented, this move could significantly help in improving connectivity by leveraging the existing resources.

The proposal to invest Rs 2 crore in developing soft and managerial skills of the farmers and associated public sector personnel through training programmes is a good one. Besides soft and managerial skills, the training programmes must include awareness related to multilateral trade regimes like the WTO and the evolving international trade rules and agreements in commodities.

Agri-Economy in Budget 2018-19

10 issues that need wider debate

Budget 2018-19 has proposed several interventions in the agricultural sector, that, Finance Minister, Haseeb Drabu, said, were designed to improve market competitiveness, strengthen productivity and modernise the supply chain. How fruitful would these proposals be? 

In a series of articles, Ziraat Times will analyse the 10 issues related to the agri-economy that have been taken up in the budget. 

Issue No. 1:

In his budget speech, Finance Minister said that the National Saffron Mission (NSM) "does not seem to have achieved the desired results." 

"Indeed, despite enormous amounts of money being spent on creation of irrigation infrastructure for saffron, the sector saw one of its worst-ever crop failures this year", he added. 

The budget has proposed what it calls a "small initiative" to encourage saffron growers to go back to the traditional system of cultivation. Along with this, a community based marketing network will also be set up. For these initiatives, Rs. 5 crores have been earmarked.

Questions that arise: 

This marks an official admission that the Rs 371 crore, 4-year NSM project, has not delivered. In months-long research on the causes of NSM's poor performance  across Pulwama and Budgam districts by Ziraat Times, several causes and factors have been identified. While we will be publishing detailed findings of that study in coming months, it is important to highlight that poor execution, rampant misuse of funds and poor integration of the market factors into the project design have been the key factors of the NSM's failure. 

It would be a big folly if we attribute the failing saffron crop, particularly the 2017 fiasco, to NSM. NSM is just one small factor among multitude of bigger factors that are contributing to saffron's decline. 

The biggest factor is the low market prices caused by indiscriminate imports from Iran and Spain. 

Low saffron prices have diminished farmers' interest in this labour and input-intensive crop. Land owners have started to think of their saffron fields as prized real estate in the absence of adequate returns.

Now, the question arises what do we want to achieve by spending Rs 5 crores to go back to the traditional ways of saffron cultivation and supporting community-based marketing networks?

This u-turn approach is quite simplistic. The cultivation prescriptions demonstrated by the SKUAST at its Pampore research laboratory for the Saffron Mission were ideal and comprehensive. Those prescriptions factored in the climate change as well. Going back to the traditional means do not guarantee successful crops in future. Moreover, the assumption that traditional marketing systems have vanished as a result of NSM is not entirely correct. 

Rs 5 crore could best be used as a pilot initiative in one particular geographical area to assess its results. If Rs 5 crore are spent too thin in vague activities with no logical connection between the input and the intended results, this initiative is bound to fail. Let us be reminded that Rs 5 crore cannot be expected to make a measurable impact in such a complex commodity. 

Issue No. 2:

The budget speech noted that the High-Density (HD) apple initiative has picked up and that reports from the field were "very encouraging." To enhance the scale of HD initiative, the budget has set aside a sum of Rs. 25 crore to finance orchard re-plantation/high density plantation initiative. 

Questions that arise:

High Density apple orchards, indeed, hold immense potential in improving product quality and productivity per kanal. However, the approach that the budget proposals seem to be taking in enhancing their scale is debatable.

The focus, ideally, should be on making high density plants affordable and readily available to interested farmers. Lately, several success stories of new high density nurseries have emerged which have produced good quality plants.

Experts and local producers insist that emphasis should be on encouraging local production rather than designing loan schemes for importing these plants from foreign countries. That approach is neither sustainable nor would scale be achieved easily. Worse, our apple orchardists could be burdened by loans, considering the market uncertainties. 

There seems to be a strong case for re-thinking import of high density plants. Farmers insist that the government should put greater focus on local high density nursery development, which would make availability of good quality HD plants affordable and readily available.

Issue No. 3: 

Finance Minister, in his budget speech, identified the lack of adequate post-harvest Controlled Atmosphere (CA) stores and associated facilities for apples as a handicap.

That is a valid point. However, the solution that has been proposed in the budget needs a broader debate.

The state Government, the Finance Minister said, has decided to facilitate private players to establish  more CA stores in the State by  providing capital support and interest  subvention.

In the interim, till the scheme is 
designed and operationalised, the 
hiring of CA stores, for the use of 
apple growers of the state, in the 
areas adjacent to New Delhi shall 
be facilitated by the horticulture department. 

Questions that arise:

The government seems to well recognise the need for addressing the deficit CA storage capacity for apples. However, people in the industry are asking what inhibited the government to announce further development of CA cold storage facilities within the state in this budget itself, considering the success of the earlier schemes in facilitating the private sector in establishing such storages within the state? 

According to apple supply chain experts, the arrangement of hiring spaces outside the state has several implications.

One, that the state will lose jobs. Two, it is unclear who will decide the quantum and the time of apple supply to markets in this case. 

Would this arrangement consider the cost implications of producers' apples in case the supply and demand conditions were not regulated? 

Would Jammu & Kashmir government have a say in regulating the supply to markets to ensure that the farmers would get due money for their produce? 

There are many more questions that arise, which need further debate and discussion.

(To be continued)  

J&K Budget 2018-19: Ziraat Times' Debate

As Jammu & Kashmir's budget for fiscal year 2018-19 is coming up for discussion and presentation during the Budget Session of the Assembly starting January 2, Ziraat Times brings to its readers wide-ranging views about the desired priorities and focus of the budget. We spoke to farmers, sectoral experts, business and political leaders and others for their opinions about the current state of agricultural economy in Jammu & Kashmir and the issues that the upcoming budget must prioritise. We also present  Minister for Agriculture, Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjura's views about his government's ideas and plans for the upcoming budget. Scroll down to read on. 

What political leaders say..

Economy is in a shambles, budget will have to make major course corrections: Ali Muhammad Sagar

The economy is in a shambles. Business sentiment is quite low. The purchasing power of the common man has nosedived. Talking about the budget priorities for the agricultural economy, it will have to make major course corrections. 

Today J&K is a net importer of food grains, meat, poultry, milk, etc. Our agricultural production is constantly going down. The agricultural land is being indiscriminately converted into construction areas. The state's balance of payment is deteriorating because of the constant rising imports. 

This government had come to power with a lot of promises about an economic turn-around and systemic improvements. So far, there is little to see of a positive change. This budget will have to make major course corrections 

- Ali Mohammad Sagar, former Minister for Rural Development; General Secretary, National Conference.  

Government is paying all due attention to the sector: Ghulam Nabi Lone

This is the most important sector of the state’s economy and, naturally, there has to be due focus on it in the budget. 

The government is giving all the due attention to the sector and many unaddressed issues have been resolved. Some issues are in the pipeline for discussion with the Chief Minister and the Finance Minister. 

We recognise that the agriculture sector has to get a boost and production should increase. We have a program which aims to double farmers’ income by 2022. More efforts will be made in enhancing productivity in vegetable cultivation. We have identified vegetable clusters in several areas. This will give a boost to our farmers and increase their income. 

There are several centrally sponsored schemes and there is focus on creating awareness about these schemes. We are also promoting innovations 

- Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjura, Minister for Agriculture, Govt of J&K.

Horticulture has sustained J&K in very hard times. It should get a big push - Saif-ud-din Soz

Agriculture is generally neglected in the whole of India. It has not received as much attention as it deserves in successive budgets. There is a misunderstanding amongst state planners that tourism is very important economically but the fact is that only a small percentage of population is involved in the sector. A vast majority of our population is dependent on agriculture.


I don’t think that anything spectacular would be happening any time soon. I have doubts if agriculture will receive a big push forward in the 2018-19 budget.

One major issue of concern is the conversion of paddy land into construction spaces. Although there are laws to check this but laws are not being implemented. Agriculture has many dimensions. Animal husbandry, poultry are closely connected. Do we have sufficient resources? Do we produce enough of feed for poultry? I really doubt that.

 - Saif-ud-din Soz (Leader, Pradesh Congress Committee)

Mohammad Yasin Khan, Chairman, Kashmir Economic Alliance, President, Kashmir Traders & Manufacturers Federation.

Agricultural land is shrinking. There should be a blanket ban on sale of agricultural land for construction purposes. Our productivity during harsh winters is not enough to sustain us, we are dependent on others states.

 Himachal Pradesh, with similar climate and terrain, is largely self sufficient in agricultural production despite less land area. Their surplus is sold to other states like Punjab. Why we haven’t been able to do the same? Our Agricultural department should focus on investing in the latest agricultural technologies and marketing strategies. Awareness about agribusiness should be created to deter selling of land holdings. Farmers are not aware of high breed crops that can be cultivated and harvested twice a year. 

Our production per kanal is less than Rs 20000 as compared to Rs. 60000 worth produce per kanal in Himachal Pradesh. Where are we lagging, what are we lacking are questions to be asked and answered. Boost to agricultural sector would mean job creation as well. 

Unemployment is rampant in the state. People should be encouraged to venture into agribusiness by having awareness schemes in the budget for its potential and providing latest technologies and providing high breed crops.

Sakina Itoo, Senior National Conference Leader and Former Cabinet Minister

There is immense scope in agriculture and horticulture but the government has not been able to do anything substantial to harness its potential in the last 3-4 years. There is a dearth of irrigation for both horticulture and agriculture. Seeds and fertilizers are largely spurious. 

The government has not been able to check sale of fraudulent/substandard pesticides/fertilisers which are being sold mostly through unauthorised dealers. No new schemes have been introduced in the state for creating job opportunities in the sector. 

This budget should have specialised initiatives for creating awareness for job prospects in the sector. Farmers these days lack guidance on how to effectively deal with climatic changes. There should be a proposal for comprehensive awareness and counseling of farmers on this too. 

The government should also identify areas that have been most productive and and involve people with successful models in replicating those.

Hakeem Mohammad Yasin, President Peoples Democratic Front

This government has failed completely in keeping promises. All sectors have been ignored - power, agriculture and even the National Saffron Mission. Time bound employment promises have failed. 

Centrally sponsored schemes for agricultural sector not reaching the people on the ground. There is considerable funds allocation to the state under centrally sponsored schemes. 

People are unaware about the incentives given in horticulture and agriculture sectors. 

Corruption is rampant. Files go from bench to bench in offices with no information reaching farmers. Young educated people are interested in this sector but lack awareness, guidance and means to work in this sector. Government has to focus on promoting marketing through specialised policies so that farmers get good money for their produce. 

We also have to pay special attention to irrigation. We import poultry and milk at big scale.The government has to focus on promoting sheep breeding and dairy farms to minimise our reliance on imports.

Attention has to be paid to the funds allocated under centrally-sponsored schemes - Taj Mohiuddin (Former cabinet minister and Congress leader)

The state's own revenues are not adequate to take care of all the needs in our key sectors, including agriculture. 

There are ample number of centrally sponsored schemes whose funds are not being utilised because the systems are not tuned well to raise, use and properly monitor their fund utilisation. These schemes are simply defunct. Agriculture and horticulture have not received  adequate attention in successive budgets. Subsidies are not enough to make our agricultural produce competitive enough. When most countries and states provide subsidies for their agriculture sectors, why cannot we, considering the marketing challenges. 

This budget has to think out of the box - Mubeen Ahmed Shah (Former President, KCCI)

This budget could consider establishment of Model Business Villages with the objective of promoting handicrafts, handlooms besides floriculture and pharmaceutical clusters. Besides giving a fillip to the floriculture and pharmaceutical industry, Model Business Villages could be set up in the hinterland, which, besides proving enhanced job opportunities, could also help in industrialization. 

The villages being the basic model will ensure better income to the people living there and reduce the migration of people from villages to towns which are under tremendous pressure.

Model Villages, besides the above, need to be identified for exploring the potential of saffron, intense and hybrid plantation for horticulture, sericulture, silk carpet manufacturing and allied activities. These model villages should also have model sheep breeding farms and wool-based small-scale industries. 

The food processing units particularly the cold storages are needed in hundreds to cater to the loss which presently happens because of mis-match between the capacity of production and cold storage space and it is important that the budget should allocate adequate funds for that. This is the only model which will incentivise locals to establish such units.

Our food processing has to go to a higher level by focusing on products of higher value like dry fruit-based chocolates and fruit-based confectionary. This budget has to think out of the box.

This budget should focus on better irrigation and rainwater harvesting - Dilawar Mir (Former cabinet minister; leader, People's Democratic Party)

In this budget, the government should focus on irrigation. 

Rivers depend on snow for water. We should have means to harvest and store rain water. We also need to invest in small check dams. Ground water with high iron content harvested through dug wells is generally not suitable for irrigation. 

Rain water could be source of drinking water for cattle and poultry besides being used for irrigation during the dry spells. Officials are not duly updated about centrally sponsored schemes which then fail to reach the people. Information about such schemes should reach rural areas. 

Educated, unemployed youth can be directed towards agriculture by providing incentives. This budget could focus on schemes in popularising new technologies like soil testing and high breed seeds.

The immediate need is to devise a robust policy framework for salvaging our agriculture, and also to create avenues and incentives that would lead to food security and employment avenues in this vital sector - Tanvir Sadiq (Political Advisor to Omar Abdullah, Working President, National Conference)

The importance of agriculture in our economic system cannot be overstated. It constitutes the mainstay of any economy but is more salient and significant like ours: basically an agricultural economy with underdeveloped secondary and tertiary sectors like industry and services. 

But, there is a paradox in operation here. We, in Jammu and Kashmir, are perversely leapfrogging the economic growth process by actually ignoring our agriculture sector, which pertains very critically to food security of our state. 

Conventional development economics holds that economic development of a given society takes place along a straight line trajectory with agriculture forming the base and then moving towards industry and then services. But, land, as a factor of production, in the state has been subject to commoditization so much so that it has been subject to trading. I mean to say here that land is bought and sold here as a commodity in Jammu and Kashmir which constitutes a dangerous peril to the health of our economy and thus food security. The state does not appear to view this development with enough alarm. If our agricultural lands get depleted and if urgent attention is not paid to the matter, then the day is not far off when we will have to totally import food from elsewhere.  This has inevitable and obvious political implications and consequences.  

In terms of basic economics, the scant attention paid to agriculture  has obvious employment or unemployment consequences. If farm labor is not absorbed by agriculture , then the surplus labor will have nowhere to go and will stay unemployed or underemployed. 

Given that we do not have a robust industrial structure and a services sector in the state, the problems will get compounded. Moreover, there will also be issues of migration from rural to urban areas which will create stresses on our urban systems. The immediate need , therefore is to devise a robust policy framework which not only salvages our agriculture but also creates avenues and incentives to create a robust agri-economic framework that leads to food security in the state as also employment avenues in this vital sector

Sectoral experts and technocrats speak...

Shakeel Ahmed Romshoo, Professor of Earth Sciences, University of Kashmir

This budget should ideally prioritise:

a) Promoting Small hydropower generation with a target of at least​ 1000Mw in the next five years @ 200Mw per year. 

b) Levying of a nominal environmental cess on energy consumption could boost environmental protection and may not put any burden on the consumers but significantly ameliorate the environmental scenario in light of negative impact of power infrastructure development in the state.

C) Promotion of organic farming and organic horticulture in the state. The list of organic agriculture products like Nadru, quince apple, walnuts, etc. need to be widened and then certified. 

D) Dedicated support for the research on minimal and appropriate use of pesticides and fungicides in horticulture; Increasing taxes on the pesticides; incentivise infrastructure development for cold storage facilities in the state to increase the revenue to the growers. 

E) Promote aqua-agriculture in the Valley as vast low lying areas, at present under utilized, have fitting land suitability for aqua agriculture and could be made productive ecosystems.

Prof Farooq Ahmed Zaki, dean Horticulture, SKUAST, Kashmir

This budget should consider investment for encouragement of agri-businesses among youth and jobs creation in the agricultural sector. For that, we will have to invest in encouraging mechanisation, technical back up and greater manpower in the sector.

The budget formulation exercise would need to recognise that people are shifting to horticulture from the traditional agriculture. Investment is required towards what people are inclined to. Therefore, public investment has to recognise that. 

Take our spraying system in horticulture, for instance. Lot of money is spent on plant protection measures. On an average 5 to 7 sprays per hectare need 3000 to 4000 litres of water. 

In Europe 15 to 20 Sprays require only 200 to 300 litres of water. The requirement for more water is because of the traditional spray pumps being used here, which increases quantity of pesticide required, leading to greater fall out, which pollutes the environment and leaves residues in the produce as well. In Europe, technology being used creates a fog with far less water and pesticides requirement. Government should invest and import such technologies and popularize them. Private sector can also be involved. They can become service providers and rent out to farmers on subsidized rates.

Raja Muzaffar, Activist and farmer

Excessive use of pesticides, fungicides is destroying the soil health in J&K state. Govt must focus on use of organic fertilizers and a separate research and development (R&D) wing must be set up in J&K which will look into this gradual transition.

Government must allocate funds in 2018-19 budget which will help to create centres where large quantity of organic fertilizer or compost can be produced by local entrepreneurs. This will serve two purposes

1. Going Organic, getting rid of chemical fertilizers in a phased manner.

2. Processing the bio degradable waste which is almost 80 % of the solid waste generated across state.

Govt supported PSUs like Agro Industries Development Corporation, Horticulture Produce and Marketing Corporation and Govt departments like Agriculture, Horticulture  and Floriculture Departments can also buy the product (Compost)  from entrepreneurs. 

Right now compost is imported from outside state. The locally produced compost has better efficacy but its quantity is very less. We need to increase this quantity so that we could become self sufficient in producing at least compost.

Abdul Hameed Shah, President, Kashmir Agriculture Technocrats Welfare Association

A time has come when this budget should consider Minimum Support Price (MSP) for our agricultural products suffering from inadequate income yield. 

As incomes from agriculture are falling, farmers are either selling land or changing the land use. If the present trend continues, there may be no agricultural land left in Kashmir in coming decades. 

Another major issue that this budget should address is the design of the centrally sponsored schemes, which are mostly designed based on the land holding of other states. We are unable to meet their eligibility criteria, and, therefore, low spending under these schemes and inability to meet targets.

Quite often there is criticism for the highly educated and technical personnel of the Agriculture Department. However, hardly anyone talks about the motivation issues of these personnel.  

The thing is that their efficiency is not being incentivised. There is a Career Advancement Scheme in SKUAST, but not in Agriculture Department. It naturally impacts morale and efficiency.

This budget should focus on institutional reform and greater input to the agricultural sector. This sector gives 21% to the J&K's GSDP but gets only 0.99% budget allocation. With that kind of allocation our production and productivity cannot have miracles.

Mohammad Ashraf, former Director General Tourism Department, J&K Govt; columnist-writer

Optimum potential and possibilities in the fields of agriculture and forestry have never been fully explored or attended to by successive governments. The possibility of growth in the sector is immense. In view of these possibilities, it is imperative for the government to give reasonably good thrust on agro based economic activities in the next budget.

While assistance is required on the promotional side for promoting these activities in the private sector, the most important is a sound organization possibly with private sector participation for marketing of the products within the country and even abroad.

Agriculture presents a field of immense opportunities for gainful employment. It is time thrust is given to various sectors with expert guidance and even assistance from abroad. This can be used to wean away the youth from the “White Collar Syndrome”! Many youth on their own have set up units in Floriculture, Fisheries and so on. 

Similarly Kashmir’s forests have immense wealth for a number of activities. The wild growing lavender can be a source for setting up a dozen perfumeries. Some private entrepreneurs are doing very well in this field. 

Iqbal Shahmiri, former Chief Engineer, Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Govt of J&K.

In this budget, to my mind, more investment is required in horticulture, saffron, floriculture (especially lavender). These are our key cash crops.

More investment in irrigation systems is desperately needed to improve existing irrigation systems and provide adequate water supply to our farmers. We have to pump more money into research. And we need to ask why the quality of our produce is not good enough for export. 

Do we have a marketing problem? Is our productivity too low? We have to have a holistic approach, and address these questions.

Moreover, we have to give impetus to Jammu’s wheat belt and also to Ranbir Singh belt. This budget could introduce special legal provisions to prevent land conversion to non-agricultural purposes.