JAMMU: Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has expressed serious concern over the trend of converting agricultural lands into non-agricultural purposes and wanton construction on highly-productive lands. She said no law or punishment can work unless we incentivize agriculture and inspire the farmer to cultivate land to earn a handsome income.
The Chief Minister was addressing a large gathering of people during the 5th Convocation of the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences & Technology (SKUAST-J), at the General Zorawar Singh Auditorium of Jammu University, here this morning.
Asking the universities to travel extra mile in navigating technologies from lab to land, Mehbooba said the farmers will have to be taken onboard if agriculture sector has to reclaim its key position in the state’s economy.
She said nature has been too kind in bestowing us with abundant water resources that can boost our agriculture production to the extent where we not only become self-sufficient but also export our produce to other parts of the country. “Unlike other states which are grappling with droughts, farmer suicides and water shortages, we have been lucky in having ample water resources to harness our agriculture potential,” she stated.
Governor, N. N. Vohra, the Chancellor of the University, and Dr. Arvind Panagariya, Vice Chairman NITI Aayog, who was the Chief Guest, were also present on the occasion.
Calling upon the scientists to share their knowledge with the farmers, the Chief Minister, who is also the Pro-Chancellor of the university, said any research that doesn’t change lives and technology that doesn’t upgrade livelihoods of poor farmers is meaningless.
Highlighting the huge strides made by countries like New Zealand, Netherlands, Australia and US in agricultural entrepreneurship, the Pro-Chancellor urged the graduating students to take pride in their newly-acquired knowledge so that they become trendsetters of a new agricultural awakening.
Congratulating the students for attaining their degrees, the Chief Minister said she will back their endeavours in taking research in agriculture to the next higher level. She said she was extremely pleased to witness the excellent performance shown by the girls in the field of agriculture, which she said is crucial on many counts. “I am proud of the three girls who won gold medals today for their distinguished performance,” she added.
Putting her weight firmly behind making agriculture attractive to our youngsters, Mehbooba Mufti said dovetailing Centrally-sponsored schemes with state government facilities will make us self-sufficient in agriculture and allied sectors like animal & sheep husbandry, poultry, dairy, apiculture and sericulture. She stressed upon minimizing imports by increasing our levels of production by highlighting the example of lucrative mutton industry where against our requirement of 51,000 tonnes, we import 21,000 tonnes from outside the state.
“Not only can we fill this gap, we could even target a huge market nationwide. Jammu region, because of its climatic advantages and access to pastures holds a great potential to be tapped,” she stated.
Drawing the attention of the new graduates to the booming horticulture sector, Mehbooba Mufti singled out the amazing success story of a young entrepreneur Khurram Shafi for them to emulate. “I would love to take you to his apple orchard and the chain of CA stores. The average yield is 10-15 times higher in comparison to the produce through traditional orcharding, hence more remunerative,” she said.
Describing hankering after a government job as devaluation of knowledge and skill, the Chief Minister urged the graduating students to think big and take maximum benefit out of various credit facilitation schemes launched by the state and central governments in modern farming.
Earlier, the Chief Minister conferred degrees among 42 candidates in recognition of their having secured OGPA (Overall Grade Point Average) of 8.00 and above on a scale of 10.00 points in Doctoral and Masters Programmes.