SRINAGAR: The state government on Thursday ordered an enquiry into the implementation of Rs 400-crore National Saffron Mission in, at least, four districts of the state.
An official handout issued here said the Minister for Agriculture, Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjura, convened a meeting here to review the “physical and financial” achievements registered under the New Delhi-sponsored National Saffron Mission (NSM) project.
“It was decided in the meeting that the Additional District Development Commissioners of Pulwama, Srinagar, Budgam and Kishtwar districts will conduct special enquiry into the implementation of NSM, costing Rs 400.10 crore, at the ground level, and into working of the officers under the project,” it said.
The officers have been directed to submit their reports within a month, it said.
The Government of India (GoI) launched NSM in November 2010 under then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, with an aim to give a boost to saffron production.
Kashmir is known for producing the finest quality saffron, which is famous for its colour and flavour all over the world. In the Valley, 90 per cent of saffron is produced from Pampore uplands, on the southern outskirts of Srinagar city.
The official production figures show that saffron area in the state has gone down from about 5,700 hectares to just around 3,800 hectares; the productivity too has dipped from 3.13 kg per hectare to about 2.50 kg per hectare in the last few years.
The government blames construction of residential houses in the midst of saffron for shrinking saffron of the fields; lack of irrigation faculties is believed to be the other major reason behind the decline in production.
However, according to the figures shared in the meeting, 1,959.685 hectares of saffron fields have been “rejuvenated and replanted” so far under NSM against the target of 3,715 hectares, benefiting 19,270 farmers of Kashmir division.
The meeting, it said, also held a detailed discussion on transfer of technology, irrigation facilities, stopping illegal construction on saffron fields, and mechanisation status.
To increase efficiency of saffron corms, the Minister directed the officers of Agriculture Production Department, who were present in the meeting, to come up with a “comprehensive proposal for import of machinery-like planters and diggers”.
Asking the officers to achieve the targets under NSM in a time-bound manner, Hanjura directed the concerned authorities to ensure distribution of quality corms among the farmers and ensure corm size of 6 to 8 grams.
Hanjura directed the executing agency—National Horticulture Board (NHB)—to speed up the pace of work and complete it within the stipulated time.
He also directed the Mechanical Department to speed up the pace of work on all ongoing irrigation pumps, while asking the concerned authorities to immediately stop constructions on saffron fields.
“Take strong action against the violators,” he told them, while directing the agriculture department to involve progressive farmers in framing any projects that is for their benefit.
Meanwhile, Rs 23-crore Spice Park is under execution at Dasu village of Pampore, the meeting announced.