Govt Won't Allow Agriculture Land Conversion: Lone

7 March 2015
Rising Kashmir
Faisul Yaseen

Srinagar: Minister for Agriculture Production, Ghulam Nabi Lone Saturday said government would no longer allow the conversion of agriculture land for illegal construction purposes. In an exclusive interview to Rising Kashmir in the State's winter capital, Jammu, Lone said, 'Severe action will be taken against people found responsible for the conversion of agriculture land for carrying illegal construction activities.' Peoples Democratic Party's 60-year-old leader, Lone created one of the major upsets of the 2014 Legislative Assembly polls defeating senior National Conference (NC) leader and six-time MLA from Chrar-e-Sharief, Abdul Rahim Rather. He said conversion of agriculture land was a great concern for the State's agriculture sector. Agriculture remains the backbone of the State economy with over 65 percent of its population depending on agriculture and allied sectors. These sectors contribute around 27 percent to the State's income. 'Our government will ensure that this does not happen in the future,' said Lone, who before joining politics worked as a lawyer. The Minister for Agriculture Production accepted that while the State was witnessing an increase in population and people needed more space to carry new constructions but said this could not be at the cost of the agriculture land. 'There are alternatives where new constructions can be carried but that cannot come at the cost of agriculture land,' he said. Lone, who has remained a Member of Legislative Council and later went on to become Chairman of the Legislative Council in the past, said his first priority would be delivering seeds, fertilizers and pesticides to farmers for the Rabi crop. Stating that there was a perception in the State that fertilizers and pesticides given by the government were substandard, the agriculture minister said he would ensure that no substandard fertilizers and pesticides are distributed among the farmers. 'Whosoever is found selling substandard fertilizers and pesticides to the farmers will be taken to task,' he said. Jammu and Kashmir is known to have the second highest demand for pesticides in India behind only Tamil Nadu. In 2009-10, the State's pesticide demand was 2467.81 metric tons of pesticides only less than Tamil Nadu with 3313.41 metric tons. The Minister for Agriculture Production said the government would take all possible measures for the betterment of the farmers. Lone said the State government would aware the farmers about various Government of India-sponsored schemes and State-sponsored schemes in the agriculture sector so that they benefit of these schemes. He said his other priority was to ensure corruption in his department comes to an end. 'I will ensure there is no corruption in my department and if there is any case of corruption, then the culprit is booked,' the agriculture minister said. Lone said he would try to modernize the entire agriculture sector and give benefits to the farmers so that their future generations are not forced to leave farming. He said his government would try to bridge the gap between the agriculture universities of the State and the real world by involving agriculture graduates for giving awareness to farmers so that their scientific work in the universities is put to use in the agriculture fields. The Agriculture Minister said he would convene a review meeting of the department on March 10 and see what the major problems the department is face-to-face with were. 'I will try my best to overcome those problems,' he said.