Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, two neighbors in the Himalayan region, bestowed with wonderful gifts of nature. Demographically and topographically indistinguishable, they are also very comparable in terms of geographical area, forest cover and climate. Despite all these similarities, the state of Himachal ranks fourth when ranked on the criterion of the growth rate of agriculture Gross State Domestic Product (GDSP). Uttarakhand, on the other hand, ranks eleventh on the very same measure. Why is it so that Uttarakhand, with a population of 32.22 lakhs more than that of Himachal Pradesh, falls not one or two but seven positions below Himachal Pradesh?
Agriculture is the chief occupation of the people of Himachal Pradesh as it provides employment to about 69% of the main working population. High rates of employment in the area of agriculture are a result of the spectacular planning done by the government of Pradesh over the span of several years. It all began in 1971 when Himachal emerged as a state of the Indian Union. The first chief minister of Himachal, Mr Yashwant Singh Parmar, whenever he visited a rural area in the state, travelled in jeep which had a trailer attached to it. In that trailer, he carried apple saplings. He made the people of Himachal realize that they were blessed with superior geological conditions and encouraged them to benefit from it.
Himachal has come a long way since then and has made several major developments, especially in the field of agriculture and over the last two decades the state has been scripting a success story. The government adopted scientific integrations that were and still are the need of the hour. The most striking feature about the Himachali agro technique is that they have segregated the entire state into several zones on the basis of altitude and agro-climatic conditions. Each farmer in one particular zone grows only one crop which can be cultivated best in that particular area. For example, in the mid-hill zone the major crops are wheat and barley. So all the farmers of the mid-hill zone cultivate either wheat or barley. This ensures the production of the crop on a large scale and also guarantees better quality crops. There is no such scheme in Uttarakhand. Farmers divide their own land into several parts and grow one main crop on a larger area and side by side they grow vegetables for personal use. This not only reduces the number of products but also produces poorer quality products as the nutritional value of the soil gets divided.
Another reason why the agro-business flourishes in Himachal is that the rate of migration from villages to urban areas is lesser as compared to Uttarakhand. The Himachal prefer farming and animal rearing over 9 to 5 jobs in cities. 89.96% of the population of the state lives in rural areas with their chief occupation being related to the agricultural sector. In Uttarakhand, there has been a declining trend in the rural population. Over 700 villages have been abandoned and 3.83 lakh people have migrated to urban areas in search of bread and butter. The prime reason for migration from the villages of Uttarakhand is the desire for better livelihood. Where the government of Himachal demonstrates splendid planning in terms of agricultural development in rural areas, the government of Uttarakhand fails miserably in this dimension. The government of Himachal adopts new and finer approaches, educates its farmers about them and makes these techniques accessible to these rural farmers. Such techniques include everything from basic knowledge of pesticides to understanding large scale organic farming.
Himachal Pradesh is most popularly known as the ‘Apple State’. The state produces around 4 crore boxes of apples each year with each box weighing 20 kilograms, supporting the income of over 1.7 lakh families in the state. With huge profits earned by the cultivation of apples, Himachal has realized the importance of ‘cash crops’, especially off-seasonal vegetables. A wide variety of agro-climatic conditions has helped the farmers cultivate a large variety of fruits. An extensive range of fruits is cultivated in different agro-climatic zones of the state. The chief fruits comprise apple, plum, peach, apricot, pear, mangoes, and lime. The farmers in the state have also started cultivating fruits that are rare to the hills like kiwis, strawberries, papayas, loquat and olives. In addition to fruits, the cultivation of nuts is being taken up by the state. Almonds, hazelnuts, pecan nuts, and walnuts are an integral part of the agricultural setting of Himachal. Himachal is also considered an emporium of medicinal and aromatic plants. The state is the largest supplier Atish, Salampanja, Dhoop, Kutki, Bankakri, Ehora, and Daruhaldi in the country. The income, per annum, in medicinal and aromatic plants in the state is worth Rs.10 crore.
The Himachalis believe in utilizing every strip of land that is available to them. If the land is low on fertility or the place does not have accessibility to agricultural equipment, the local population or the owners of the land grow grass on that particular piece of land. This grass is mowed and then sold to dairies in Chandigarh, where it serves as feed for the cows, at a decent price. Himachal also produces a large number of floriculture products. The state has constructed enormous cold storages. The flowers are picked and are stored in these cold storages and then are exported to various cities via air-conditioned trucks that are brought into the state. The cultivation of cash crops and floriculture, therefore, plays a significant role in the betterment of the economy of the state. Not only does it create sources for income to the people residing in the rural part, but it also provides employment opportunities in all agricultural sectors.
During the past 50 years, the state of Himachal has made tremendous progress in the agricultural sector and Uttarakhand lies nowhere close to them. There are several reasons for this but the root cause for all these reasons is one – the department of agriculture has been ignored by the government. There is a tremendous amount of work that can be and needs to be done in order to make the agro-business flourish in Uttarakhand and step one in all these tasks is the involvement of the government. There is a great need to set up at least one good agricultural research center in the state. Research in this field will help us develop techniques and seeds that produce a good quality crop. The need of the hour is to sow seeds that produce a high yielding variety, use insecticides and pesticides that improve the quality of crop and all this is possible only if proper researches are conducted in the state. The sole reason why people in Uttarakhand are migrating to urban areas is that there are no opportunities in the hills to make money or find employment. If the government provides proper training and equipment to the locals and makes farming feasible in rural hilly areas, the rate of migration would definitely decrease and a movement of reverse migration would initiate. Where on one hand the government of Himachal Pradesh is digging deeper into every aspect of agriculture and horticulture individually, the Uttarakhand government is planning to merge the two departments, agriculture, and horticulture, in the coming years. A lot has to be done in the state in order for it to match Himachal. If the state government and the people join hands and invest more resources into the field of agriculture and market their locally grown products well the agro-business in the state of Uttarakhand too shall thrive.
By Prachi Nautiyal