The Punjab government's project to generate employment opportunities for 10,000 local youth by transforming the herbs-rich Kandi area of Hoshiarpur district into a major agro processing zone is likely to bear fruit. Dabur India has expressed interest in marketing the locally processed products and to explore the potential in the region.
The man behind the idea, Parkash Singh Badal, the Punjab chief minister (CM), is scheduled to preside over a meeting of an expert group comprising of representatives of Dabur India, the Mysore University, Indian Council of Agricultural Research and Punjab State Farmers Commission, on Thursday.
The Kandi area, falling in Talwara, Mukerian, Hazipur, Dasuya, Bhunga and parts of Hoshiarpur, is spread over 1.4 lakh hectares in 543 villages.
It is a virtual treasure house of shrubs and herbs with medicinal, cosmetic and aesthetic value.
"The agriculture department has pegged the value of natural produce in the Kandi area, including mango, jamun, beal, harar, bahera, amla, galgal, lemon and dheo at Rs 564 crore per annum. Only 33% of the potential is tapped, the rest is wasted," deputy commissioner Deepinder Singh told HT.
"With the state government coming up with a plan to transform the area into an agro-processing zone, we estimate to increase utilization of natural produce by 400%. This will ensure employment opportunities for 35-40 residents per village for 200 days a year. We will be able to properly channelize energy of the youth through self-employment," Singh said. He added that it would also help the youth stay away from drugs.
The agriculture department has also identified naturally grown herbs and shrubs with medicinal and economical value like gloe, punerva butti, bhakhra, puthkanda, sujana, kachnar and karahi patta as another reason for the probable success of the processing zone.
The CM along with the expert group would also visit a women self-help group at Ramgarh Sikri village, 13 km from here, which had set up a small agro processing unit for value addition to fruits, vegetables and herbs based on local raw material.
Badal, who visited several remote villages during the campaigning for the Dasuya bypoll, has already held three meetings with expert groups at Chandigarh to take a final call on agro-processing zone.
Meanwhile, experts believe that 75,000 bee colonies could be easily set up in this area and the region could emerge as an important centre for honey trade.
Rising unemployment had emerged as a major poll issue during the Dasuya by-election. The CM had promised the voters to look into the issue.
"The government will fund the self-help groups of the Kandi area in setting up agro-processing units and help arrange marketing for their products," the DC said.