Indus Water Treaty requires a re-look
ACROSS THE TABLE
POLITICAL ASPIRATION CAN WAIT, ECONOMIC ASPIRATION CANNOT. INDUS WATER TREATY IS AGAINST J&KíS ECONOMIC INTERESTS.MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE GHULAM HASSAN MIR IN AN INTERVIEW WITH NISSAR BHAT. EXCERPTS
Agriculture is a vast sector, yet this has not shown a satisfactory growth in J&K over past many years. What has hindered its growth in J&K?
See, in J&K we have agriculture potential. Majority of the people is agro-based but the system which is prevailing in whole of the country has made agriculture activity less remunerative. Besides, the agriculture activity in itself is very tough one, with the result nobody likes to undertake this activity. Everybody wants to take it as a subsidiary one with the result agriculture has a challenge. Especially in Kashmir we are not working for the economic interests of the state. We have become more politic; we think in terms of politics and have forgotten the economy of our own state. This is a very dangerous trend.
You talk about economic self-reliance of J&K. What do you actually mean by it?
When I am talking of economic self-reliance, I never mean that you should produce rice or paddy in such a manner that you must not get anything from outside. During the times the dynamics of the world has changed. World has become a global village. In these situations you cannot remain in isolation. You have to produce such things which have the market. When you produce such things which have the market, you can import those things for which you have the requirement. For example, here we have the potential of horticulture. In India our state is number one in horticulture produce but because of the political turmoil this area is totally neglected. Government has an essential role to play in this behalf. Our apple is no match to the apple that comes from America, Australia and China. If we have to have to survive economically, we have to address these things. But these things cannot be addressed when there is no peace. When there is not desire to compete with the world. I am telling to the people of J&K if we have this craving that we should have special status, OK everybody wants a special status and special position, but what will come out of that special position politically, unless and until you will have economically that special status.
Unemployment undoubtedly is a major problem in J&K. You will agree that it directly affects the youth of this state. How do you think government can or should deal with it?
Youth have been exploited by all the political parties in J&K. Whether it is one side of the coin or other side of the coin.
Does it include your party as well?
(Pause) My party is very small party. We are in the beginning and I have never made tall promises to the youth. When every political party in the elections claims before the youth that they will be providing one or two jobs to each family I am the only person who has never made such tall claims. See, unemployment in J&K is a big big problem. But here it has a different dimension. In J&K unemployment means lack of government job. As long as our youth look it in that way, it will always remain there and nobody on earth can solve it. But I feel it a bounden duty of all political parties, and the government that they have to create job opportunities for the youth so that they donít remain idle and suffer.
But how can they create job opportunities?
See how this can happen. For eradicating the unemployment you need private sector. You need investments. When it is all turmoil, no peace, who is going to invest? It is not the question of foreign investment. Here we have our own players, state subject people, who have sufficient money and resources, who could invest here but they are not investing here. They are investing outside the state, in whole of the country, outside the country and in other countries. They are not investing in J&K because of the turmoil. So when we want the unemployment should go it is again the peopleís desire. We have to create such a conducive atmosphere here that this place will become a hub of economic activities. For that I am the first person who asked the resourceful persons of the state to come forward and invest in J&K. Once they will start investing in J&K then other players can come also. Once the investments will come, automatically unemployment will go. There are other areas. Our government jobs are much lucrative, secured and yield more perks than work. Once private sector comes we have to see to it that they donít exploit our youth instead they make the best use of the youth using their talent and paying them what they deserve. So unless and until investments come forth, unemployment is a challenge, it will remain a challenge and it has to continue as a challenge.
As you do acknowledge that there is a political issue, the condition in the state is not conducive. So how do you expect investments are going to come to this place?
See, my point is who has to see to this problem? It is the people of J&K. We have political aspirations. If the political aspiration is not fulfilled in the immediate future, should we wait till it is satisfied and we donít do anything for our state till then. Fulfilment of political aspiration can wait, but economic aspiration cannot. A person can live without political aspiration, but not without food. Even if you may get your political aspiration satisfied tomorrow, but that political satisfaction cannot satisfy your belly. For the time being we may take a high jump but that is not to serve the purpose of the people unless and until we have the economic basis. For that we have to work.
Are you effectively suggesting that people should suspend their political struggle or aspirations for sometime and pursue the economic goal?
I will not say suspend. I am not saying anybody you should surrender your rights or give up your political aspirations. I stand by the genuine political aspirations of the people. What I say is that you have to strategise in such a manner so that political aspirations do not hinder your developmental aspect or else tomorrow you will end up developing a society which will be economically weak and totally dependent with no identity of its own and which will be nowhere considered in the map of the civilized society. So my point is that we have to re-strategise the whole issue and to see how we can survive and keep pace with the fast moving world without surrendering our political rights and political aspirations. In this direction I see whether it is the Hurriyat Conference, militant outfits, mainstream politicians they have to think as sons of the soil. We should not resort to blame game against each other. We have to reconsider our programme and re-strategise for the benefit of the people.
I will come on role of agriculture universities. Donít you think the agri-varsities in J&K have not been doing much of scientific and research work?
I donít agree with this that universities are not doing research or scientific work. They are doing it. See the difference is there. But yes there was a problem of communication. They were doing the research but that was not reaching to the people. It was because of communication gap due to turmoil. Extension department was not functional, universities were not functional. The pace of work in our universities, in agriculture department was low. I must tell you about my agriculture department our seniority problem (even today) is in such a manner that we have given charges to one officer for three-three places, because we are not in a position to place them properly due to seniority disputes. Again the seniority disputes have remained there because of the turmoil. Nobody has attended to those problems. Here during the turmoil period anything you may touch you will find mess has been created. You see what has happened to our society. How many killings took place from this side or that side. How many families we have lost. How many widows and orphans are there. Similar is the situation of every department/institution. None of the institutions is up to the mark. We have to restart everything. I am asking the people of J&K they have to bear this thing in mind that in the developmental race we have lost 30 years. We have to be so much proactive that at the same time we have to keep the present pace and we have to get what we have lost. So we have to be extraordinarily hardworking. Only then we can be at par with the developing people. So when you are talking to me about universities the same thing happened there. Universities were the hideouts of the militants. So how could you think that they would be doing the work that was needed? Now you see since we took over, our effort was that whatever is available in the lab it reaches to the land. In that direction you saw we held during the last turmoil kissan melas. The purpose of those kissan melas was that the technology which is available in our laboratories should reach out to the farmers. You see and we are doing that and it requires an aggressive follow up. And see how things are taking place. Hybrid seeds have been introduced in Kashmir first time last year and you see the results thereof. We have introduced rotational cropsó wheat and rice. It was not there earlier. It is the creation of our universities. We introduced it in the Valley and it is becoming popular. Earlier people would complain fertilizer is not available. But today you will not find such complaints. It may be at low level but not of much magnitude. However, I must tell you that two things are needed for agriculture department. One, we have to make agriculture glamorous. Unless and until it becomes glamorous it will not attract the youth. So for that purpose what we have to do? We have to mechanise the system and we are doing that. You see we are providing subsidies to the people for purchase of agriculture machinery. We have started agri-clinics. We have marginal farmers. They cannot afford to buy big machines. So we have developed concept of agri-clinics. Concept of agri-clinics means you are a youth, we provide you five lakh as a subsidy you purchase a machinery and rent out it to people. It will make agriculture glamorous. Second is the profitability. I have also asked the CII people to come here. There should be value addition, post-harvest system, for that we need the investment. Government can be a facilitator and private parties will have to come. Once there is value addition it will definitely help the producer. Again we have saffron industry here. It has gone (down) because of two things: one marketing problem, second its productivity has gone down. We introduced the saffron mission. I hope this mission will go a long way in rejuvenating this industry. So unless and until we go for cash crops, traditional crops cannot do good to the farmer community in terms of economy. But we have to go for cash crops.
In agriculture we have two major challenges: One, farm land conversion for non-farm activities and second fake saffron. What do you think is the solution to these problems?
I will reply to this question in detail. See, why conversion of land takes place. This is an important question. See, people having lands in the villages prefer to come to city and find jobs. Why, because agriculture is not profitable and service is profitable. So they are leaving the first and coming for the second. Now again see if you have a kanal of land in Bemina. If you use it for cultivation of rice, you will get at the most Rs 5000 per annum. If you sell the same land you will get Rs 60 lakh. If you put that money into a Bank you will get at least Rs 30,000 to Rs 40000 interest. What would you do? But what we need to consider is that we need to keep something for our progeny. So we have not to allow this mass conversion. Compulsion can be there for conversion but mass conversion cannot be allowed. Last year our government had framed a committee of three minister including me. We drafted a bill. That was presented in the Assembly. But the honourable members of the Assembly sought that it should go to the Select Committee. So it is delayed but the law will be there. But it is not only the law that will stop the conversion. We need certain restrictions on the constructions. And you need some more drastic changes. Here everyone keeps a big lawn useless, makes big houses for which you have not the requirement. Some checks should be there. Society has to prepare itself. You might remember a bill had come for, though it was not for levying the tax, but just a rumour was floated that government was going to tax the houses. Everybody went against it. Why? If the houses are taxed, that is a good thing so that big houses are not built. Land will be protected. You have to do some innovative things and there must be will of the society. There are land grabbers, interested people who will not like this law to come up and innovations to take place. But the civil society has to rise to the occasion. For that press has to play a role. Again to your second question, tell me who is doing this fake saffron? Who is cutting our own legs? Who is selling the Amritsar shawl under the label of Kashmiri? It is our own society! We have developed a penal law. Whosoever deals with the fake saffron he will be penalised. If there is any complaint one can go to the police and case can be registered against the culprit. In saffron mission we want to develop a spice park in Pampore. In spice park there will be the laboratories for test. Once the saffron will be tested there, it will be packed there and there will be e-mail transaction so that will one way check this fake saffron menace. This is an effort from the government side. But the saffron growers should not become totally dependent on the government. They have their own associations. What they are doing to educate the people what is the genuine and what is fake saffron. Unless and until you make the people aware of the product, you cannot save your industry.
Our thinkers say that Indus Water Treaty affects not only the power generation in the State, it also comes in the way of agriculture growth. Do you agree?
See, while developing the big power projects, IWT affects us. See in Baglihar we have trouble, again in Kishan Ganga we have problem. In creating generation potential IWT is definitely a handicap to us. It requires a re-look. It requires review. There are no two opinions about it. As regards agriculture, there are definitely problems in this area as well. We could make new channels, we could introduce new areas to the irrigation, but we cannot do so because of this treaty. So it has totally affected our economy in a bad way. This treaty is against our economic interests.
Industry people often complain against government saying although it claims to promote industry, in effect it has been taking steps which prove harmful for the industry growth. Like for example, the hike in power tariff, new taxes, etc. How would you respond?
No industry can survive on the concessions of the government. See, why you will give them concessions on power?
May be because they want some time to build up their capacities and be competitive in the market.
No. They will always be asking for it (concessions). Whosoever earns he asks for more and more concessions. Government has always been a facilitator for the industry. And, when we raise the rates, it is always on the lower side. But I must tell you that industrialisation is must for the economic development. Government is very serious about it. That is why state government recommended to the government of India for certain packages to the industry. For production purposes, for employment purposes, industry has to play an important role.
Many say it is useless to talk of economy unless the political issue of Kashmir is resolved. Do you agree?
(Smiles) See, question of resolution - that is in its place. If it is resolved nothing like that. Can it be resolved that is a moot question. How much time it will take that is again a moot question. My only point is that should we wait till it is resolved, and we should be beggars and should we stop till then. These things have to go together. We have to see our economy also and I have already told you that I never mean that people of Jammu and Kashmir should surrender. I never mean that people of J&K should give up. But they cannot be only for that, leaving everything aside. For example, here we continued this struggle and we closed our schools, was that a right step? We kept hartal for three months, four months, what was that a correct step? So we have to realize all these things.
Lastupdate on : Thu, 21 Jul 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 21 Jul 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 22 Jul 2011 00:00:00 IST
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