New Delhi: After procuring apples from local producers, the Narendra Modi government is now planning to support farmers growing saffron, peaches and walnuts in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Speaking at the World Congress on Rural and Agricultural Finance in the national capital Tuesday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the government has directed the Centre-owned National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) to look at ways to provide support to these agri-produce farmers.
The government is also looking at ways to harness solar energy in Ladakh, Sitharaman said.
The FM said she will visit J-K with Nabard Chairman Harsh Kumar Bhanwala to identify ways in which the central government can extend support to the newly-formed union territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh via the financial agency.
Speaking on the sidelines of the event, Bhanwala said Nabard will look at creating farmer produce organisations if required, and may even provide grants for setting them up.
Nabard will hold discussions with farmers to understand the problems faced by them and set up such organisations, or Kisan clubs. These two steps can be taken immediately, Bhanwala said.
Jammu & Kashmir is India’s leading producer of saffron, walnuts and peaches in India.
Besides this, Nabard can also work with banks to ensure the availability of credit to the farmers. This could include both long-term credit for farmers as well as short-term credit and cash credit facilities to ensure they are able to take their produce to the market, Bhanwala said.
Bid to develop Kashmir
The latest move comes two months after the Modi government asked the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) to step in to procure apples directly from growers in a bid to help apple traders in the Valley tide over the crisis in the erstwhile state.
Jammu and Kashmir saw large-scale unrest after the government announced on 5 August its decision to revoke the state’s special status and bifurcate it into two union territories — J-K with an assembly and Ladakh without an assembly — and place restrictions on internet and mobile communication in the region.
Nafed’s intervention in alleviating the problems of the farmers, however, has not been successful as procurement levels have remained low.
To deliver on its promise of development, the Modi government has also been trying to encourage more investment in the two union territories, with many industries evincing interest to set up shop.
On its part, Nabard has evinced interest in building the rural infrastructure in J-K. At present, J-K gets around Rs 400 crore every year from the Nabard-administered rural infrastructure development fund with a corpus of around Rs 28,000 crore.
But this amount can be doubled, Bhanwala said, adding a separate fund for J-K could be carved out to support the building of rural infrastructure in the state.