Minister for Finance, Labour & Employment & Culture, Dr Haseeb Drabu today said that given the immense contribution of the agriculture sector in J&K’s socio-economic milieu, innovative measures are being employed to boost productivity and post-harvest management of the agriculture and horticulture produce.
He said agriculture sector has not only the potential to turn-around the State economy but it also can help create huge employment generation avenues for the local youth.
Interacting with a large gathering of agriculturists from across the J&K, under the aegis of State Board for Development of Kissans, as a part of pre-budget discussions, the Minister assured the farming community that every possible support will be provided to them to give boost to agriculture and allied sectors.
Vice Chairman, J&K State Advisory Board for Development of Kissans, Daljit Singh Chib, Commissioner Secretary Finance, Navin Kumar Choudhary, Commissioner Secretary Agriculture Production, Muhammad Ashraf Bukhari, Members of the Kissan Board, D P Khajuria, Tejinder Singh, Rajesh Bitu, S K Charak and Secretary of the Board, G N Mir were also present in the meeting.
The Minister said that the government is committed for promotion of agriculture sector in the state. He assured that the Board’s well thought out suggestions are important for welfare of farmers and will be considered for incorporation in the budget 2016-17.
During the meeting various suggestions and demands were received from the board including KCC loan waiver which was announced during the last budget session. Responding to the issue the Finance Minister said that the matter is under process and the said commitment shall be fulfilled at the earliest.
The members of the board also demanded exemption of VAT on agriculture tools and implements including manually operated, tractor driven and power driven machinery and equipments. They also asked for exemption of VAT on oil seeds when purchased on government account. The representatives said that bamboo which is grown in Kandi areas and is referred to as poorman’s timber should also be exempted from VAT to promote the growth of bamboo sector under the National Bamboo Mission.
The board members also raised the issue of payment of tax with regard to small tractors and asked for formulation of a proper definition for it according to horse power, so that it could be considered under a particular category for exemption. They said that diesel being used for tractors, power tillers, pump sets etc. should also be considered for exemption from VAT through certain permits or a similar mechanism.
The representatives of the farming community said that in order to help and facilitate farmers practicing protected cultivation, the shade net used in the said practice should also be exempted from VAT.
With regard to Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) the representatives of the farming community demanded for provision of a matching state share to timely access Central funds so that agriculture remains a viable occupation.
The members of the board presented before the Minister a demand for increasing the budgetary provision for agriculture sector. They also requested the Minister to keep a budgetary provision for revolving fund for purchase of seeds, fertilizers, etc. or to help provide such a fund through organizations like J&K Bank under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). They said a provision for enhancing skill development in the agriculture sector on the lines of Seed Capital Fund Scheme under JKEDI should also be kept in the budget.
The representatives of the farming community also demanded for exemption of VAT over agricultural equipments including poly green house structures, egg trays etc. They requested the Minister that import of basmati rice in the state should be restricted so as to help local producers.
The representatives also raised the issue of crop insurance and suggested that adequate provisions need to be kept for crop insurance in the State Budget for overall benefit of the farming community. They also asked for a special scheme for promotion and growth of dairy sector in the budget.
With regard to irrigation facilities, the representatives of the farming community asked for provision of funds for maintenance and repair of canals and channels under Command Area Development Programme, so that could remain functional.
Other issues that were raised in the pre-budget meeting include demand for subsidy on hybrid seeds, establishment of warehouses and cold storage facilities.