Uttarakhand has not been able to improve its agricultural growth in the past 15 years though the majority of its population and area are still classified as rural and the state government has a record of nearly 100% spending of its budgetary allocations.
Hill farming is still awaiting special attention from the government as much of the state’s agriculture budget comes from the Centre and most of the agri-development schemes are centrally sponsored.
Experts and agriculture department officials say though the state has scope for development in other sectors, farming is the key to checking migration from hill villages.
“There is no alternative to a hill-centric agricultural action plan in the larger interest of the state. However, some important decisions have been taken in the recent past. For instance, the government has resolved to enact a new land consolidation act for hill areas,” says Kedar Singh Rawat, a farmer who played a key role in framing the land consolidation act draft plan.
“This will benefit mainly the hills as farmers will have the opportunity to consolidate their holdings, bringing them together with the help of the local administration and increase their cropped area. Apart from this, those who have migrated from villages would also like to return to their roots with expectations to own consolidated large pieces of land.”
Rural areas of the state are concentrated in nine hill districts and most of the agricultural production comes from the four districts of Haridwar, Dehradun, Udham Singh Nagar and Nainital. Despite demands for a hill-centric development action plan very little has been done by successive state governments to promote agriculture.
The contribution of agriculture to the state’s domestic product is about 22% and 75-85% population depends on the occupation for livelihood. While the incumbent Harish Rawat government believes that development of hills is primarily linked to the development of agriculture it is yet to come up with a suitable policy boost for either mainstream agriculture or allied activities.
“Fifteen years have gone but we do not have a separate policy for hill farming. It’s a must as hill farming cannot keep pace with plain agricultural activities for the inherent hardships,” farmer leader Shankarchand Ramola said.
“Apart from promotion of local and traditional hill crops, farmers need to be given adequate cover in terms of welfare schemes. Besides this, adequate technical and financial support for water conversation measures must be provided to hill farmers.”
The state has done well on the budget spending front as almost 90% of the total Rs 482.69 crore outlay for the current financial year has been deployed. Of that, Rs 187 crore was Plan expenditure with the Centre and state sharing 50% each while the remaining was non-Plan spending.
“The proposed budget need for the coming financial year is likely to be around Rs 320 core. Of this, the Plan outlay will be Rs 140 crore with the Centre-state share in a 90:10 ratio,” said the state agriculture director GS Arya.
The hills are constrained in terms of development of large-scale industrialisation as well as the service sector. Development of the agriculture sector, therefore, remains the state’s economic lifeline.