Agriculture director says it is an ‘experiment’, may succeed or fail; farmers demand compensation for lost crop
SRINAGAR: In an extreme case of negligence, the Agriculture Department of Kashmir has distributed mustard oilseeds among farmers which, as per agricultural experts, are on trial only for states of Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi.
Farmers who have sown the oilseeds provided by the department told Kashmir Reader that officials have now directed them, when the sowing process is already done, to stop sowing the variety as it will yield nothing.
“We were told by the (agriculture) officials earlier that this new breed of oilseeds has been created to increase yield manifold. Now, after weeks have passed, we are being directed to stop the process,” the farmers said.
Hundreds of farmers who received the new breed provided free of cost, and sowed the same across thousands of acres of farming land, are shocked to know that the breed will be “of no use now”.
Seeking compensation from the government, Mubashir Ahmad, a member of the Kisan Mandal farmers’ union, told Kashmir Reader that a season’s crop is lost and with it, the expenditure incurred on labour and other farming activities.
“We demand immediate action against the erring officials for taking us on a ride. Compensation must be given to all those farmers who have suffered losses due to the officials’ negligence. As the oilseeds have been sown already, we can’t grow anything till the next crop season. We even have apprehensions that the oilseeds may have adversely affected the land’s fertility,” Ahmad said.
He said that the oilseeds breed was rejected by agricultural scientists at the Sher-e- Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences, Kashmir (SKUAST-K). “We fail to understand what led these officials to distribute the same among farmers,” he said.
Following the blunder, Joint Director of Agriculture Extension, Sonaullah Mir, wrote a letter addressing the Joint Director, Agriculture (Inputs), clarifying to him that the aforementioned breed was not suitable for J&K, and that his office should have verified the suitability before disbursing the oilseeds among the chief agricultural officers who later distributed them among farmers in all districts.
“…the Minikit trials of Mustard (RGN-236, RGN-229, RVM-2 and RH-749) are not suitable for Jammu & Kashmir state and, as per the literature provided by the supplier (National Seeds Corporation) through your office, these trials are being cultivated in the states of Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi only,” the letter reads.
It further reads that it was obligatory to check the suitability of the trials before asking his office for distribution among chief agricultural officers to lay out trials in the field. “So this office or field agency are not responsible for any consequences which may arise,” the letter says.
Director of Agriculture, Kashmir, Altaf Aijaz Andrabi told Kashmir Reader that his department has not directed any farmer to stop sowing this new variety, but has only told them that the seed is on trial basis and can either fail or succeed.
“It (the new variety) is actually a high-yielding breed introduced on trial basis. We are experimenting to see whether it will sustain in the atmospheric conditions here or not. If it fails, then we will close this chapter, and if it succeeds, then it will give a huge push to mustard production in the Valley,” Andrabi said.
He said that it is not true that SKUAST-K has rejected this variety. “Had it been the case, we wouldn’t have distributed this breed among farmers. Moreover, it was necessary for us to go for an experiment because our farmers have been using oilseeds produced 20 years ago,” he said.
Responding to the joint director’s letter that raised concerns of failure, Andrabi said that it came from the “incompetence” of the officer who had written and forwarded the letter. “They don’t want our farmers to grow and adopt a high-yielding variety, either due to their incompetence or lesser knowledge,” he said.