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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.