Punjab to set up separate administrative body for horticulture projects

May 16, 2017 04:45 PM

Punjab News Express
CHANDIGARH: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Tuesday gave in-principle approval for the creation of a separate administrative body for the execution of various horticulture-related projects, and also ordered the creation of a mechanism to protect the rights of land owners giving out land on lease to corporates/individuals for horticulture development.

The Chief Minister also asked his Principal Secretary and Chief Secretary to prepare a comprehensive plan to bring about a paradigm shift from conventional agriculture to the high value horticulture on scientific lines through out-of-the-box initiatives, an official spokesperson disclosed after a meeting of the Agriculture and Horticulture departments, chaired by the Chief Minister.

The spokesman revealed that the Chief Minister additionally ordered a slew of other major initiatives to boost crop diversification in the state to encourage farmers to shift from the traditional wheat-paddy crop cycle to the more lucrative horticulture.

Pointing out that land owners were not leasing out their land for fear of losing it, thus leading to sub-optimal use of the land, officials stressed the need to enable corporates/individuals investing in horticulture in Punjab to lease and operate land holdings over and above the permissible land ceiling limits. The Chief Minister ordered steps for stringent implementation of the 2011 amendments made to the relevant legislations to protect ownership/possession rights in the case long-term contract/lease.

Regarding the proposed new administrative head, the meeting decided it was essential to supervise, in a coordinated manner, the various activities and projects related to horticulture, according to the spokesperson. It was thus decided to set up the new head under a Secretary, Horticulture, to streamline the functioning of the various state government departments currently involved in the function.

The Chief Minister also gave the nod for the establishment of a Punjab Horticulture Board, on the lines of the State Agriculture Marketing Development Board (Mandi Board) to help farmers shift to horticulture.

The meeting discussed ways and means to address the anomalies in the Punjab Land Reforms Act 1973 by redefining orchards to include fruits other than kinnow and by reviewing the permissible area for the same.

Captain Amarinder also agreed to the proposal mooted by the Additional Chief Secretary (Horticulture) to set up a separate university exclusively for the development and research of fruits, vegetables and floriculture, on the lines of Guru Angad Dev University of Veterinary Sciences, to give a further fillip to the horticulture sector in the state.

The Chief Minister also consented to hive off the work related to drip irrigation and soil testing for horticulture from the Soil Conservation department and transfer it to the horticulture department to ensure its better coordination for the promotion of this crucial sector.

In another decision, the Chief Minister directed immediate steps to fill up the vacancies in the Horticulture department by either expediting the process through the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) or by bringing the sanctioned vacant posts out of purview of the PPSC after seeking approval from the Personnel and Finance Department. The latter course would enable filling up of the vacancies through a departmental selection committee on the basis of written test to be conducted by Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana, strictly on the merit, the spokesperson disclosed.

Captain Amarinder, who has been aggressively pushing for crop diversification to enable sustainable growth for the state’s beleaguered farmers, underlined the need for extensive R&D for the development of new varieties of citrus by utilizing the services of PAU and eminent international experts in the field of horticulture. The meeting proposed setting of a dedicated Kinnow Mandi, with a multi-cell Cold Storage, in Abohar, South Punjab.

The Chief Minister emphasized the need for setting up joint ventures with MNCs like PepsiCo, Tropicana, Hindustan Unilever to ensure a marketing network of juices and beverages not only in the domestic but also in the international market. He stressed the need to develop and augment the cold chain infrastructure in South Punjab to further strengthen the export and domestic markets for kinnow.

Other initiatives discussed at the meeting related to mushroom and potato growth, as well as floriculture and bee-keeping, besides setting up of a tomato mandi.

Prominent amongst others who attended the meeting were Media Advisor to Chief Minister Raveen Thukral, Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh, Additional Chief Secretary (Horticulture) Himmat Singh, Additional Chief Secretary (Development) Satish Chandra, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Tejveer Singh, Special Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Gurkirat Kirpal Singh, Secretary Agriculture Vivek Partap Singh and Special Secretary Horticulture Vikas Garg.

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