Promising Agriculture sector!

Therein lies the key to our economic progress…

After two and half years of my joining Jammu and Kashmir Agriculture production department in 1985 under T&V (trainings and visits) scheme of NAEP (National Agriculture Extension Program) I was sent on a punitive posting to Warwan valley in Doda district just for standing against hypocrisy. As a young man I enjoyed the four years posting at Warwan to the hilt. No worries, only work. I was a happy-go-lucky man. In the fall of 1988 all the officers and field workers of agriculture production department (at that time rural development department was under the administrative control of agriculture ministry) working in Doda district were called for a meeting with the young and dynamic district development commissioner Mr. Khursheed Ahmad Ganaie. During the interaction Mr. Ganaie addressed us as ‘galaxy of technocrats’. First time in short span of three years of my career I felt honoured and elated but my euphoria was short lived as in the same breath he punctured my sense of elation when he said, ‘I have reports that officers and officials of the agriculture department are unable to deliver to the best of their capability’. True to my temperament I stood up and tried to explain department’s view point. My seniors tried their best to gag me. However, Mr. Ganaie being magnanimous enough encouraged me to speak and got satisfied with my reasoning that ‘agriculture is a time bound practice influenced by many factors, mostly governed by the nature and any scientific intervention in this field will show its results only within a specific time period rather than overnight material growth of small but shining tin roof houses erected by rural development department’ {with due regards to hard work of rural development department in the treacherous terrain of Doda district}.
My lines hit the right spot as I had rightly conceived that our work as agriculture experts is being put to test by comparing it to the benchmarks of rural development department.   By relating this nostalgic experience I want to convey readers that agriculture practice and science of agriculture is time bound procedure mostly governed by nature with very little but crucial intervention by man through research and practice with utmost sincerity.
In this part of world most often agriculture technocrats are ridiculed as useless bunch of scientists and agriculture development infrastructure as wastage of resources. People are of the opinion that agriculture scientist should have and till date are unable to invent some magic wand that can deliver quality agriculture produce overnight with the press of a button. Since 1947 in Jammu and Kashmir agriculture production per unit area has increased many folds, there is no doubt about it. However in our state at present agriculture sector as an enterprise is not considered quite remunerative due to escalated cultivation cost, climatic constraints and some social aspects. No doubt agriculture sector in Jammu and Kashmir over the period of time has experienced tremendous growth but this growth is unable to keep pace with ever increasing demand and parameters of self sufficiency in food and allied agricultural products. There are many reasons for this ‘comparative’ shortfall. Increase in population against static landholdings and faulty land-use are the major factors that dodge self-sufficiency.
    Surprisingly, in early fifties when chemical fertilizers were introduced in Kashmir farmers were reluctant to use it and would not cooperate with the agriculture experts and extension workers. Those days countryside was rife with rumors of conspiracy to ruin their lands. However in seventies with the continual efforts of agriculture department and its allied sectors the whole scenario changed and at occasions there used to be acute shortage of chemical fertilizers. Many unscrupulous elements exploited this situation of gap between demand and supply of chemical fertilizers to make quick bucks. Then in mid eighties NAEP and T&V changed the whole scenario of agriculture sector in Jammu and Kashmir (this is not my personal opinion but the available comparative data speaks for it). First time in the history of the state farmers were connected with the research oriented institutions like SKUAST trough extension workers and subject matter specialists of the department of agriculture. And thus the ‘lab to land’ conception became a reality.
After implementation of NAEP in early eighties many innovative schemes and programs were launched to give boost to states agriculture sector both in state and central sector. Transfer of technology from laboratory to the field and provision of quality inputs to farming community was the main agenda of these schemes. In a vast country like India deviations and seepages in implementation of such mass schemes cannot be denied but even then the success rate was satisfactory. The recent saffron mission launched by the state agriculture production department with technical support of SKUAST and  the financial assistance of central agriculture ministry proved to be the most intensive scheme both in latest technology transmission and availability of quality inputs to the saffron growers. As I said earlier this missionary scheme will not show its results overnight but in the long run the seed (corm) replacement policy, technology transfer and quality inputs will surely give boost to this most crucial commercial agriculture sector of Kashmir. While implementing a scheme that too in agriculture field several interventions are experimental in nature and can turn out to be an extra baggage and in case of saffron mission the irrigation aspect should not have been fiddled with but left to the nature as agriculture is mostly influenced and dependent on the mood of the Almighty. God willing, in coming years the hard work of agriculture scientists and extension workers will surely prove fruitful and this otherwise dying sector will be restored to its pristine glory.
 Presently the main bottlenecks in our agriculture growth and self sufficiency equation is faulty land use and this can easily be managed by strict implementation of existing land use laws and further strengthening these rules by timely legislative interventions. The other way-out is paradigm shift in our agricultural cultivation practices by shifting from extensive to intensive agriculture and cultivating more remunerative cash crops like floriculture and saffron in designated areas. Most importantly the agriculture sector has to be made honorable by giving due regard and respect to cultivators and tillers and get this sector out of the stigma of being called as ‘Grustoo’.