A big disservice
The Jammu and Kashmir Governor administration approved Rs 88,911 crore state budget for the fiscal 2019-20. The approved budget according to officials is expected to give a massive push to public infrastructure in the state and address the core areas that are key to the economy of the state.
The focus of the budget 2019-20 is to give a big push to tangible developmental initiatives with Rs 30,469 crore earmarked for building public and social infrastructure in addition to Rs 3,631 crore already provided under languishing projects programme.
The budget formulated has focused that investment in infrastructure is the growth driver for economy and has a cascading impact on all sectors including employment generation and socio-economic development.
However, some stark realities have come forward which points out to the fact that the intentions of the present administration over some core sectors are quite disheartening. One of the core sectors of our economy is the agriculture and horticulture sector.
Horticulture sector, which provides livelihood to about 7 lakh families involving 33 lakh souls, has been allotted a meager 1 per cent of the total Rs 88,911 crore budget outlay for 2019-20.
The administration has allocated a mere Rs 500 crore for the horticulture department out of which Rs 315 crore is capital expenditure and Rs 169.75 crore revenue expenditure.
What is worrisome is that the horticulture sector is one of the core and key sectors that contribute immensely to the economy of the state. This sector earns Rs 7000 crore, which is by far higher than any other segment of the economy, including tourism, in the state.
The meager allocation for fruit industry is not new. According to budget details, in 2018-19, PDP-BJP government allocated Rs 528 crore.
In 2015-16, an amount of Rs 1959.88 crore was approved as grants for agriculture, horticulture, floriculture and cooperative sectors, of which an estimated Rs 500 crore were for horticulture.
The meager budgetary allocation for the horticulture sector has given various indications. The sector is presently under stress due to the fact that this year an early snowfall led to loses worth crores in the horticulture sector besides, the seasonal vagary also led to the damage to orchards with experts suggesting a decline in the output during the next few years.
This development has been ignored by the administration as no such provision has been made in the budget that would have provided for a cushion for the growers and the traders connected to horticulture.
According to official figures, horticulture sector generated a total wage employment of 7.71 crore man days in the year 2016-17 under apple orchards and others, emerging as one of the major sources for direct and indirect employment generation in the state.
Horticulture sector has significantly expanded over the years with an area of 3.38 lakh hectares currently under cultivation, producing 23.55 lakh metric tons– fresh fruit 20.75 LMTs and dry fruit 2.80 LMTs. Still, this sector has witnessed official apathy, which smells of some ill intentions towards this key sector.