Director Agriculture blames multiple reasons for delay
Anantnag: Eleven years and several extensions later, the most important irrigation component of the National Saffron Mission (NSM) remains incomplete, even as the yield keeps dwindling year after year owing to a drastic change in weather.
The multi-hundred Crore NSM was initiated in 2010 and among soil testing, change of seed, enhancing the land under cultivation, and Irrigation – there were a total of 11 components in the Mission aimed ultimately at enhancing the quality and quantity of the world’s costliest spice.
“All the other components have been completed,” insists Director Agriculture, Chowdhary Muhammad Iqbal. Even if what he maintains was true, the non completion of the vital irrigation component takes the sheen off the whole mission for sure.
Irrigation has been the major challenge for saffron growers in Kashmir as erratic weather patterns often leave the land under saffron cultivation without any moisture, particularly at the time of the harvest in October and November every year.
To address this pestering issue, the Irrigation component in the NSM was devised upon wherein 126 borewells were to be dug and pipes were to be laid in saffron land in Pampore to ensure a sprinkle of water as and when needed.
“Less than half of the borewells needed to be dug have been completed thus far,” a source in the Agriculture Department told Kashmir Reader, “The laying down of pipes lags far behind,”
The farmers, Kashmir Reader talked to, acknowledged that the Irrigation under NSM has been a disaster and it has been affecting their produce. “It has in a way been a spoilsport. We were made to change the seed in our land under NSA, and it was imperative that the land remained under proper irrigation for the plain fact that new seed needs moisture to produce a better yield,” Muhammad Ramzan, a Saffron farmer told Kashmir Reader.
He said that the yield has now been dwindling, with no irrigation and erratic weather patterns.
“This year as well, we do not expect much of a crop. There has been some rain, but not enough for a good yield,” the farmer said.
Chowdhry, meanwhile, blames the farmers, the land mafia, the revenue department and the mechanical department for the delay and the mess in the irrigation project.
“The land mafia wants to destroy Saffron cultivation. Pipes have been stolen from some places where they have been already laid. Some farmers have also sold the pipes laid down in their land,” he said.
He said that the revenue department has not come up with an assessment of the land cover and the district administration needs to be asked questions about granting construction permits in saffron land.
“Yes, we have been short of funds on the Irrigation component as well and we have written to the government of India for funds and for another extension for the completion of the mission,” he said, “Soon as we receive funds the mechanical department will also be held accountable for the delay. We will ensure they do the work in a timely manner.”