In spite of the fact that farming has been a major livelihood for the people of Himachal Pradesh, agriculture as an occupation has failed to attract the youths of the state.
The national policy for farmers that was framed in 2007, endorsed the participation of youth in farm activities, but failed to entice enough youngsters in the state towards farming.
According to the statistics provided by the state agriculture department, nearly 30 youngsters approached it in 2013 for launching self-employment ventures under the national policy for farmers.
Under the policy, interested youths would be helped and supported for setting up agri-clinics and production-cum-processing centres to undertake outsourcing jobs both from within and outside the country.
The policy states that in order to attract youths to the agriculture sector, several vocational training courses in various aspects of agricultural and allied activities, including value addition and processing of agro-products, should be introduced and recognised.
"The department had organised several camps and awareness programmes, but youth participation has been less than expected," said a training official of the agriculture department, adding that the state has implemented several schemes and policies to "strengthen agriculture as a prospect among the youths, but it has not earned the desired success so far".
Joint director of agriculture department, Joginder Singh, said, "The numbers of youngsters among farmers has increased, but it is still not up to the mark."
"The youths are attracted towards agriculture initially due to implementation of some schemes, but few of them continue with it," said he.
Farm activists said that the youth of the state were more attracted towards private jobs. "As agriculture is still a less remunerative sector, the youth opted other professional courses for getting jobs in private companies," said farm expert Chiranjeet Singh Parmar.
"Youngsters count for a good number in agricultural and horticultural universities, but young farmers are very less", he added. He also said that youngsters were rushing to neighboring states in search of a job, leaving their farms behind.
"Agriculture is the last option for the youths here as they are attracted towards private jobs in neighboring states," said Ajay Vir Jakhad, president of the Bharat Krishak Samaj.
"People who remain in villages compare themselves with their friends who have moved out and are doing other jobs," said Jakhar, adding that it was important that they are economically as well placed as those in services and business.
Atul Chauhan, a tourism student at Himachal Pradesh University, said agriculture was less remunerative in the state. "We can start any agricultural venture with the government's help, but scope of survival is bleak," said Chauhan.