Reinvigorating horticulture sector and checking spurious pesticides.
Horticulture, tourism, and handicrafts are the three important sectors that contribute substantially to earning and employment of people of Kashmir. With diverse agro-climatic advantages, horticulture is the most vital sector in the state that involves a large section of the population particularly in rural Kashmir. With more than two million people directly or indirectly involved with production and processing, horticulture trade in Jammu And Kashmir State has an estimated annual turnover of twelve billion rupees. So, by all means, horticulture contributes substantially to the rural economy with thrust on employment and sustenance of eco-friendly economy within the fragile ecosystem of Kashmir valley. Successive regimes, even from the time of the autocratic rule of late Maharaja, have given due consideration to sustenance and development of horticulture industry in Kashmir. However, in the early seventies with the invasion of pathogens, the horticulture sector got a setback and cost of cultivation increased manifold. Horticulturists and agriculture scientists tried to balance this steep increase in the cost of cultivation by introducing new high yielding verities with longer shelf value and superior genetic characteristics. High-density apple plantation with improved imported rootstock was one such effort that was initiated by the department of Horticulture long back at state of the art nurseries at Zanpora in south Kashmir and Pattan in North Kashmir. This scientifically feasible and economically viable effort could not attract much attention of common farmers due to lack of initial investment and vigorous motivation for shifting from traditional varieties to improved ones. The present efforts of the state government to provide assistance and latest technical expertise to farmers for high-density apple plantation and involve Jammu and Kashmir bank to provide workable finance to farmers can be termed as a welcome farmer friendly scheme. However, like earlier failures, the scheme will not yield desired results if it will be confined only to farmers with big land holdings and undue interference or favoritism. Our planner in horticulture department has to motivate vigorously small and marginal farmers to shift their cultivation scheme from traditional extensive farming to high-density plantation of intensive farming. For that they should infuse fresh blood of latest technology and quality inputs into their existing farms at Zanpora and Pattan; involve some progressive farmers out of their existing contact farmers and establish demonstration plots of substantial size. Because for an ignorant and not a much-qualified farmer, the concept of ‘seeing is believing’ works more effectively than other means. Authorities and field managers at Jammu and Kashmir bank also need to bear in mind that providing a loan to a farmer, that too for establishing a fruit plantation in not as easy as providing financial assistance to the non-agrarian sector. In farm sector, the banker has to have patience and a healthier rapport with his client. However, the guarantee from the state government and assistance on interest will obviously create a symbiotic relation that can have good results in the long run.
The most important factor that has been pushing our horticulture sector to situation of exploitation and rundown is rising cost of plant protection measures, spurious pesticides, and chemical fertilizers. For long farmers throughout the state have been shouting at top of their voice against well-organized pesticide mafia patronizing supply and sale of spurious plant protection chemicals and fertilizers. In her address, while launching the high-density apple plantation finance scheme Chief Minister rightly articulated concern for the sale of spurious chemicals by saying that PSA (public safety act) will be slapped against dishonest pesticide and fertilizer dealers. With highest regards, I would like to remind the Chief Minister and other authorities that effective laws already exist within the system that can prove effective deterrents against such dishonest trade practices, instead, it is the implementation of a law that we lack somewhere or sometimes. A full-fledged law enforcement agency within the department of agriculture and notified quality control laboratories are part of the mechanism of checking sale of spurious pesticides and fertilizers. The only requirement is up-gradation of these laboratories, infuse the highest degree of honesty, impartiality, and sincerity by placing credible people for effective law enforcement. People who have already worked in this system previously should be made answerable so as to know about prosecution rate of unfair dealers during their term. In the case of any lapses responsibility should be fixed and action initiated against erring officers and officials so that no one will dare to go off the rails.