India will grow only if NE is strengthened: Tomar

Tomar plants a tree sapling in the presence of dignitaries at Agri Expo site on Monday. (NP)

Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Narendra Singh Tomar said that Government of India wants to realize the country’s vision of all-round and balanced development. For this, reason Tomar said Prime Minister Narendra Modi believes that if the strength of the Northeast grows, the country’s strength will consolidate, and the nation will move forward.

Tomar, who was on a two-day visit to Nagaland, said this at a gathering at ‘Angh House’, North East Agri Expo here on Monday. During the day, Tomar also launched the Honey Testing Laboratory to help beekeepers and processors for testing the honey produced, besides visiting the Bamboo Museum and Organic AC Market.

Highlighting the Central government’s focus on development of the Northeast, he remarked that even though majority of the meetings of Central teams were held in Guwahati earlier, now the focus was to reach every State of the region. He added that the Central teams also visited the region to look into aspects where Centre’s intervention was required and expedite them, rather than listening from Guwahati problems of other North Eastern States.

“When the Northeast moves forward, the entire country moves forward,” he emphasised.

Urging State governments of the region to work hard so that all Central schemes were implemented properly, the minister claimed that the Centre, in coordination with funding partners, was trying its best so that the region could achieve self-sustainability.

Tomar further said Northeast, especially Nagaland, had a huge potential of becoming a hub for export of organic produce. He, therefore, urged upon the region, particularly Nagaland, to identify crops or produces that had a competitive edge over other States in the country.

He stressed introduction of Kissan Railways, which allows export of produce to reach end-users or consumers within 24 to 48 hours, as a forward marketing linkage. He said this would allow supply of perishable goods in good condition to consumers, thereby allowing the farmers to get access to markets and thus benefiting the local economy.

In his speech, agriculture and cooperation minister G Kaito Aye said agri and allied sectors provided best scope for economic development of Nagaland, adding that the sectors made a significant contribution to the State’s annual Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP), about 45%, and also had the largest workforce.

Claiming that the agriculture department was trying its best to transform the State by promoting agriculture as a sustainable and viable livelihood option both for the farming community and unemployed youth, he shared that Nagaland had bagged the Krishi Karman Award consecutively for two years recently for food grain production under Small States category.

To encourage youth, entrepreneurs, FPOs, FPCs, SHGs, etc, he said the State government initiated a start-up programme called “Naturally Nagaland” to monetise poor and marginal farmers in post-harvest management and marketing so that they could package their produce in any brand under the banner of Naturally Nagaland. He hoped to expand Naturally Nagaland stalls in cities outside the State.

Highlighting gaps in policies and their implementation, the minister noted that most schemes were designed as “one size fits all”, while urging the planners and policy makers to take the trouble of visiting the Northeast, spend time here and plan policies specifically designed for benefitting the farming community in the region.

He also called for revising cost norms for different components and suggested separate cost norms for hilly regions.

Aye maintained that online digital payments through PFMS, SNA account, DBT, etc, initiated by Union Ministry of Finance were not farmer friendly, pointing out that of 74 blocks in the State, 27 were still unbanked.

He urged Tomar to provide organic AC market facilities in all 16 districts of the State, besides proposing construction of common facility with all amenities of state, national and international standards under one roof and allow them to prepare DPRs.

In his speech, chief secretary J Alam remarked that Nagaland was blessed with fertile soil, suitable climate and favourable land-to-man ratio as per population.

He said two-thirds of the State’s population resided in rural areas and engaged in agri and allied activities, adding that such positive features had given rise to huge potential for commercial production of various crops and other allied activities like plantation of oilseeds, agro-forestry, fruits and vegetables, animal husbandry and dairy, fisheries, bee keeping, sericulture, etc.

Alam claimed that State’s food grain production had significantly increased from 62,000 MT in 1963-64 to more than 7.5 lakh MT in 2020-21.

Alam mentioned that the State government had adopted “Naga Model of Integrated Settled Farming” (N-IsF), which was being implemented in convergence with all agri and allied departments in single clusters, which included integrated farming along with associated activities like vegetable clusters, packaging houses, food processing units and bamboo warehouses, creation of common water bodies like check dams or reservoirs, common feed mills for livestock, etc.

Agriculture production commissioner Y Kikheto Sema delivered the welcome speech and also chaired the programme. Various officials including central horticulture commissioner Prabhat Kumar, farmers and scientists were present on the occasion.