Making Right Economic Choices

The turbulent political situation in Jammu and Kashmir for more than past two decades has marred its economic development. From being a self sufficient state in its economic needs once, J&K has now reached a situation that it always has to be with a begging bowl in front of New Delhi and more than 50 percent of its expenditures are to be met out from the aids and grants provided by New Delhi. Besides, state each year raises hundreds of crores in the form of debts, which are becoming extremely difficult for the state to pay back.

Prevailing political situation created vested interests, and inefficient governments always had something to blame so that to keep away from prioritising the economic and other developmental needs of the state. An economically weak J&K suits these vested interests. The planning and policies they made never had been for reaping the available resources of the state. Rather certain sectors, which are totally dependent and interlinked to external forces, are given priority over the sectors, which have been time tested in the state and are mostly weathered to external conditions.

J&K in general and Kashmir in particular has been an agrarian economy from centuries. And the available natural resources in the state are fertile land, forests and abundance of water added with temperate climatic conditions, which makes it one of the best-suited places for the agriculture, horticulture and other related occupations in the world.

Though the majority of the people in the state are associated with this profession but the mode of their operations is still primitive with negligible use of technology. Despite that it is the main contributor to the state economy. According to recently issued government figures, yearly export returns from the fruits are about Rs 5000 crore, which is only next to government salaries. Kashmir valley supplies 90 percent of the total consumption of apples in India. But a Kashmir apple fetches only half of what a Himachal Apple gets because J&K has almost no post harvest infrastructure available. As, whatever goes out it goes in the raw form without any processing.

There is no horticulture policy in the state like we have a policy for tourism. Neither there have been any bigger provision in the state budget for the horticulture industry, except for few tax concessions.

The horticulture industry in the state needs modern post harvest technology, processing infrastructure and new marketing strategies. This only is possible if state makes the sector a priority and there is a long-term policy for it. And prioritising the horticulture is the only way to bring economic self reliance in the state.