“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Misplaced priorities are causing havoc to Kashmir’s socio-eeconomic life

Agriculture declining in Jammu and Kashmir: Report

Though Agriculture and allied sector contribute 27 per cent to the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) during the last five years, it got the least attention from Jammu and Kashmir government. Revealing this, a latest audit scrutiny by Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has pointed out that the net sown area in Jammu and Kashmir declined by 11,000 hectares and irrigated area by 2,000 hectares from 2004-05 to 2006-07. However, instead of initiating any action to arrest this trend, the state government spent on establishment nearly 85 per cent of the Rs 550.68 crore expenditure (excluding centrally sponsored schemes) incurred in Agriculture sector during 2003-08.

“This exorbitant cost of establishment prevented any significant expenditure on crucial areas of agricultural production, thereby affecting the development of agriculture in the state” CAG observed in its latest audit report.

Significantly, this had been so even when agriculture and allied sector contributed 27 per cent to Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP). Of this, agriculture alone accounted for 8-9 per cent of the GSDP during 2006-07.

Pointing out that Director Agriculture in Kashmir attributed the decline in net sown area and irrigated area to urbanization, coming up of railway/road projects and construction of complexes etc, it observed that no steps had been taken by government to increase it.

Even the plan allocation under agriculture and allied services was meagre and it declined further from 9.42 per cent in 2003-04 to 6.03 per cent in 2006-07. The allocation under agriculture sector alone declined from 1.89 to 1.46 per cent during this period.

However, despite the decline in plan allocation in agriculture sector, the funds provided under centrally sponsored schemes were not fully utilized. Citing an instance, it pointed out that under the centrally sponsored integrated scheme of oil seeds, pulses, oil palm and maize, the Government of India had released Rs 85 lakh in May 2004 and Rs 1.43 crore in May 2005. These funds were required by executing agencies during the sowing period (1st and 2nd quarter of the year).

The audit scrutiny revealed that these funds were released by Directors in Jammu and Kashmir Valley after a delay of 4-6 months. As a result, the executing agencies could spend only Rs 1.57 crore thereby leaving an unutilized balance of Rs 70.49 lakh. Consequently, the second instalment of Rs 2.27 crore could not be availed by the department for these years, though an action plan for its release was submitted on time.

Similarly to provide irrigation facilities to the saffron growing area in Konibal and seed multiplication farm at Allowpora in Pulwama district, Rs 22.44 lakh were advanced to Ground Water Division for drilling of tube wells. However, the work has not started as of March 2008, with Director Agriculture Kashmir saying that a team of officers was being constituted to look into the matter and select a suitable piece of land for drilling tube wells.

Even the targets set by Agriculture Department were far below the 10th Plan targets which, as per the National Agriculture Policy 2000 aimed at a growth rate of 4 per cent during the period. Though no reasons were assigned for lowering the targets for the year 2006-07 in respect of wheat and maize, the CAG’s audit scrutiny attributed it to shortfall in distribution of high yielding variety seeds, decline in the rate of yield, poor performance of seed farms, decline in net sown area, non-availability of irrigation facilities etc.

The shortfall in distribution of high yielding varieties of seeds, according to the audit scrutiny, ranged between 49 to 86 per cent in respect of the main crops like paddy, maize and wheat.

The honey production also declined from 6,834.51 quintals in 2004-05 to 2,336.92 quintals in 2006-07 registering a shortfall of 77 per cent in targets fixed for the 10th Plan. Against the targeted distribution of 66,000 bottles of spawn (mushroom) by the department’s laboratory at Jammu during the 10th Plan, their distribution declined from 33,534 bottles in 2003-04 to 30,702 bottled in 2006-07. The decline continued despite department incurring an expenditure of Rs 83.36 lakh on the activities of the laboratory during 2004-07, CAG pointed out.

It further pointed out that the Centre approved establishment of an integrated unit for mushroom development at Jammu under the centrally sponsored Technology Mission with a final ceiling of Rs 50 lakh. The entire amount was released in advance in July 2004. However, a year later, the department approached the National Sericulture Project Division (NSPD) and JK Project Construction Corporation (JKPCC) to take up the work.

The NSPD in March 2006 submitted an estimate of Rs 65.62 lakh for the work, with department finally allotting it to Horticulture Department’s executive engineer in September 2007. This inordinate delay in identifying the executing agency for undertaking the work led to non-establishment of the mushroom farm.