Dr Arjun Singh Saini, Director General Horticulture, Directorate of Horticulture, Haryana has been at the helm of affairs in the Haryana government’s horticulture initiatives and has made significant contributions in achieving the goals of the administration. In conversation with Priya Yadav of Elets News Network (ENN), he highlights the achievements and the challenges the state is facing in the agriculture sector.
What are the challenges that the department has faced in its goal to improve the horticulture sector in the state?
We are targeting increment in productivity rather than the area under cultivation in the state although that is also aimed to increase. We want to empower the farmers with knowledge about the use of pesticides so that it is reduced from 20 percent to the minimum value. They are restrained in the use of technology and through grassroots workshops and campaigns, we are giving them technology demonstrations. We have launched over 20 schemes to address the challenges that they are facing.
What are the various schemes that are being implemented in the state for the benefit of the farmers?
The Department of Horticulture, Haryana is concentrating its efforts for the overall development of the cultivation of fruits, vegetables, flowers, spices and mushroom in the state by ways of providing various valuable information, incentives and guidance to the orchardists of the state through its extension personnel posted at the block level and district level. Under the macromanagement mode, many schemes have been initiated. In area expansion, there is a provision of free assistance for planting material and other inputs for the cultivation of fruit crops as per guidelines from the Government of India from time to time. Strengthening of Private Registered Nurseries scheme allows assistance for the augmenting private registered nurseries operating in Haryana under Nurseries Registration Act.
Schemes for integrated management of pest and diseases provide assistance on a different type of plant protection equipment like Knap-sack, Gatoor, and other manually operated spray pumps for the control of insects, pest and diseases. There is a scheme for the popularization of Improved Horticulture Tools which provides assistance for the purchase of tools like secateurs, pruning saw, Khurpis, tree pruner and spades etc. for day to day use in orchards. There is yet another scheme for the training of farmers which is done in batches comprising of 25 farmers each at Horticulture Training Institute situated in Uchani village in Karnal on different aspects of Horticulture Development Technology.
What are the various training options that are being provided to the farmers?
Haryana government has tied up with the Agriculture Skill Council of India for the Agriculture Skill Programme which is a part of the Skill India Mission. Under the programme, courses are conducted for farmers panned over two and a half month totalling to 200 hours. Certificates are provided after the course completion which is valid and valued not just in India but globally as well. There are courses like those for Green House Operators and in fact, Haryana has requested the ASCI to develop two capsules specifically for the state based on the needs of the farmers.
What are the opportunities in Haryana for the horticulture sector?
Haryana as a state does not have uniformity in the type of climate and soil and different regions are conducive for cultivation of different kinds of fruits and vegetables. For instance, one region is conducive for the growth of mangoes, chiku, pear, peach, plum, litchi and even apple. Another area that borders Rajasthan and has dry climate is good for Guava, date palm, amla and ber. The other belt is good for growing kinnow, guava, pomegranate, date and palm. The climate is otherwise favourable for a variety of fruits and exclusive good soils allow high productivity. The proximity to major markets like Delhi and tri-city of Chandigarh. Proximity to NCR offers excellent marketing channels. There is scope for establishment of Processing Industries in fruits (mango, citrus, strawberry) and vegetables (pea, tomato, potato, carrots, garlic, onion). Exports of Mango, Citrus fruits like Kinnow and Vegetables are being done to the far East.
Haryana has started several centres of excellence for the benefit of the farmers. What and where are these?
As many as four centres of excellence have been set up in the state with Indo-Israel collaboration. Centre for Sub Tropical fruits have come up in Kurukshetra and one in Jhajjar has been set up for flowers.
How is IT being integrated into the system and how is it being used?
Apart from Kisan Credit Cards which are being made digitally to help the farmers, all the schemes of the government are now available online. A farmer can go to the service centre in his village and apply for any scheme online and submit related documents online as well. The response will also be generated online and money transfers are being done digitally. Moving from the administrative digitisation of system, IT is also being used for monitoring and surveillance purposes as well. Drones are being used for crop assessment especially to see the impact of nature’s vagaries on the produce. These are being used in a limited way as of now but have the potential for widespread use as well.