Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Protecting Horticulture Industry from Vagaries of Weather

The Rising Kashmir argues that given its importance in the economy of the State, concrete measures are needed to prevent it from risks that arise because of weather or natural calamities

Horticulture Sector

The horticulture season is about to start and with experts and growers in unison projecting a bumper crop, the coming months are, presumably, hectic for farmers as well as food processing units. The recent spell of rains has, however, cast a spell of doubt on the ‘bumper crop’ as experts opine that recurrence of scab disease is likely to make a comeback because of continued rains. The cold climate followed by rains and again by high temperature of 26-27c is likely to tell upon the marketability of the fruits, according to experts.

The growers’ apprehensions that horticulture and allied departments are not acting as whistle blowers and aren’t taking appropriate steps for checking the incidence of scab needs are well grounded given the past track record of the agencies and institutions concerned with the horticulture sector. Now given the importance of the sector in the economy of the State, concrete measures are needed to prevent it from risks that arise because of weather or natural calamities, lack of adequate infrastructure, marketing and others. It is a good sign that SKUAST-K is trying to get out of the academic discourse and move from laboratories to fields. Horticulture forms the fundamental strength of the rural economy of the State and with a yearly turnover of around Rs 2000 crore, it provides direct and indirect employment to more than 23 lakh persons.

The State is endowed with rich horticulture products like apple, cherry, almond, walnut, plum, strawberry, apricot, saffron etc and among these cherry, walnut, almond and saffron are the monopoly products. Over the last two years there has been a lot of talk about the horticulture sector of the State. The growth of food processing sector in the Valley during the recent years makes one convinced that the sector holds great promise. J&K has a tremendous diversity in climate and physiogynamic factors that equip the region with the kind of ‘niche’ to grow wide range in many cases of unique type of horticulture products. The food processing industry showing signs of growth is totally dependent on the fruit and vegetables that are produced in the valley. Taking a lackadaisical approach won’t only tell upon the primary sector but will also hurt the subsidiary industrial sectors like food processing that has the chance to emerge as one of the sunrise industries in Kashmir.

The government has done very little for the development of horticulture market and food processing sector and with trade terms easing thing are going to get tougher. Given the geographical disadvantages of the state of J&K vis-à-vis other Indian states that are close to consumption markets need to be addressed through technology intervention like cold storages and compressed atmosphere stores. Now is the right time for laying stress on product quality including grading, packaging, branding as big brands are likely to make a big impact in the fresh vegetables, fruits and other allied markets in India. E-trading of the produce by the growers that has been quite successful among growers in Himachal Pradesh is yet to take shape in the State. Let every stake holder capitalise this potential in right earnest.

No comments: