In a bid to meet the challenge of acute shortage of farm labour, farmers in the agriculture belt of Jammu have started looking towards mechanical means to harvest the wheat crop and direct rice seeding machines during the ongoing paddy sowing season.

The union territory (UT) of Jammu and Kashmir is witnessing acute shortage of experienced farm labour as most of them have migrated to their home states of Bihar, UP, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh during the Covid-19 lockdown. More than 60,000 labourers have so far migrated from here and special trains are daily carrying them to their home states.

Amid lockdown restrictions, the district administration of Kathua managed 324 combine harvester machines to harvest wheat crop and facilitate farmers to procure over 30 direct rice seeding machines for sowing paddy crop in the district thus lessening the labour dependency of the farmers.

The administration rolled out a whole raft of initiatives through the Agriculture Department to help farmers experiencing difficulties to carry out agricultural activities such as harvesting and selling of their winter crops and sowing summer crops across the district.

As per the data, the Kathua district, which is among the main food grains producing areas, has 39,385 hectare under wheat cultivation. The agriculture department was directed to remain proactive in managing combine harvester machines from neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana to cater harvesting needs of the farmers.

Direct Seeded Rice (DSR) cultivation has been introduced for the farmers for sowing of paddy through machines. DSR enables direct sowing of rice seed in the field rather than transplanting seedlings from nursery and due to this method of sowing there is not only saving of the labour but also water. The agriculture department has provided a subsidy of Rs.20,000 for each machine. DSR helps farmers overcome shortage of experienced farm labour.