(Mr. Mohammad Shafi Ayaz, 47, was born in Anantnag, and continues to live in the same town. He studied in various state schools, colleges and universities. He has completed his MBA, and is a Certified Associate of the Indian Institute of Bankers(CAIIB), and is working on a doctorate thesis on “Non Performing Assets in Indian Banks." He is a banker and presently associated with the Jammu & Kashmir Bank as Senior Executive. Mr. Ayaz has three publications - two in Urdu, one comprising of fictions/short stories titled as “Dard-i-Pinhan” (Hidden Pain), and the third comprising of poetry titled as “Talash-i-Sahar”(In Search of Dawn). He has also published another short book in “Interest Free Banking.” He writes on various topics in the Daily Kashmir Images, Weekly Shuhab and Weekly Sabzar. Earlier he contributed articles to two leading Urdu dailies of the Valley - ‘Aftab’ and ‘Srinagar Times’.)
All is not well!
The Agriculture Sector is backbone of the economy of a state which has more than 70% population directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture. It is well admitted that the progress and prosperity of any state is dependent upon the growth of the agriculture and its allied sectors so it is always the priority of every state to treat it as thrust area. As per official figures of our state of Jammu and Kashmir the contribution of the primary sector, which include forestry, livestock and mainly agriculture sector, to the State Domestic Product has witnessed a decline since 2001. The year 2001 saw a contribution of 31.4% by this sector, which declined to 29% in 2007. Officials attribute this decrease to the growing urbanization of J&K. They claim that the actual growth rate of agriculture in the state has shown a constant increase but has lagged behind the national average. Is it really so?
The State of Jammu and Kashmir is also one of such states whose economy is more or less agro based. We have horticulture industry here having APPLE as its main product which fetches a good value for its growers as well as for the state. It is well said that if God has gifted Arab Countries with dollars in the shape of underground petroleum resources, we too have been blessed with dollars growing on trees in the form of apples. The state is gifted with huge agricultural potential. It is not only food grain but other allied activities like Horticulture, Sericulture, Saffron, Bee keeping etc. Often we read in the newspapers and listen from radio that the government.is taking various steps for its improvement and is committed to utilize the vast potential of agro-based activities available in the state to give considerable fillip to State’s economy. Chief Minister of the state in a recently held meeting said that the agriculture is the mainstay of JK economy and that it was need of the hour to make agriculture thrust area. Agriculture Minister of the state is often seen in meetings, seminars, workshops and other programmes related to agriculture and its allied activities and it shows his keen interest in his assignment. Usually a pleasant and a rosy picture is presented in these forums and we feel complacent. Even at national level our work in this sector is reportedly appreciated. Is it really so?
The fact is that barring horticulture all other sectors are showing a declining trend. Horticulture sector being exception on a valid ground. Vast paddy land has been changed by its owners to orchards. Paddy yielders or farmers found that the rice cultivation is no more profitable and as such they have cultivated apple trees resulting in increase of area under horticulture thereby the production of apple in the state increased significantly. This off course has reduced the paddy land area. Thus any other factor is not visibly responsible for increase of apple production. But what about other sectors of agriculture and its allied sectors where this type of transformation has not taken place. The story is quite different.
Saffron is the pride production of the state. Its cultivation faces the threat of extinction as the cultivatable area and production have decreased by half in a decade’s time. The cultivation area of saffron has declined from 5,707 hectares in 1997-98 to 3,030 hectares in 2006-07 as per official figures. The productivity of saffron has decreased from 16 metric tonnes to 8.5 metric tonnes . These figures speak the real story of this pride sector of agriculture.
Sericulture Industry is heritage industry of J&K State and the story of this industry is no more different. The Silk Industry of Kashmir possesses a golden legacy as is revealed from official reports.. The entire Europe was the first continent with which Kashmir had started its silk trade. The reports also show that in the year 1855, Kashmir was in a position to supply 25000 oz of silkworm seeds to Europe. By exporting silkworm seeds to Europe, the Silk Industry of Kashmir gained a pivotal position on the silk route of Europe. But in the past few decades the silk production has diminished by 50% in the State of Jammu & Kashmir.
The position of honey production is also no exception. A recent report from Bandipora district which is one of the major honey producing districts has revealed the same story. Honey production of the district has declined by 80% this year .According to official figures the production during 2010 was 400 quintals while as this year it is only 80 quintals. These are only few instances and the stories of other agriculture related activities is somewhat the same.
Although there are various claims from the concerned departments of the state government which apparently seem to show the priority of the government to boost the agriculture and its allied sector in the state but do these claims which are based on announcement and declaration of various measures for promotion of these sectors really work . Government has off course sanctioned Rs.22.00 crore for setting up a Spice Park under the National Saffron Mission at Pampore to ensure quality control and marketing of this most expensive spice. But this project is only on papers as it has been stayed by the court of law. Again the high claims of the government that they are on the way to revive sericulture industry and there is no dearth of funds for supporting the growth of this industry. 2500 hectares of land under Mulberry plantation is proposed to be developed through CDP exclusively for introducing of Bivoltine cocoon production. It seems to be a good decision on the part of government but the ground reality is that the number of mulberry plants is decreasing due to cutting of these trees. Once these trees were seen on the road sides all over in the valley but today hardly any such tree is seen any where on the road side. The position of those who deal with industry is well known to every body. Every now and then we see these people on the media channels expressing their vows. They are fed up with their profession and there are no freshers keen to adopt this business activity as is no more profitable for them. Similar situation is with other sectors of agriculture.
Though it goes without saying that there is a great scope for revival and improving of agriculture and its allied activities in the state, but it needs a pro-active approach and a firm commitment from all the concerned. Despite of tall claims about our progress and achievements in agriculture sector and our agro based economy, it is a hard fact that “ All is not Well” and we should accept it.