RS Pura that is also known as the rice bowl of the Jammu region is a major grower of high quality of basmati rice. The aroma and the taste of Basmati rice of RS Pura have been gathering popularity in the international markets since long.
The state of Jammu produces around one lakh metric tonnes of different varieties of Basmati rice. Around thirty thousand of basmati rice is exported all over the globe.
The basmati rice is grown in the floodplains of river Tawi in the Jammu region which brings soil full of minerals from the Himalayan region. The basmati rice uses comparatively less chemical fertilizers than other qualities of rice.
But earlier Basmati rice was not that popular as it is now. The government earlier was not in favor of the export of basmati rice. However, there were people who raised their voices in support of the export of basmati rice. One such person who till his last breath stood for the survival of basmati rice of Jammu.
Choudhary Dev Raj resident of Ranbir Singh Pura was known as a senior farmer who stood for the farmer’s union. Till his last breath, he always did what he felt was right for the betterment of the farmer’s union.
Dev Raj was respected by his villagers. His speeches always had a taste of culture from rural Jammu. The high authorities always admired his unique personality and the smile on his face. He always followed traditional fashion with a small white turban. His clothing is used to suit his personality. According to villagers he always uses to make his points with dignity, grace, and confidence.
Even in anger he never left his prestige. Choudhary Dev Raj was the founder president of R.S Pura Rice Growers Association. He was well aware of the agricultural policies made by the state government.
Before 2004 there was a ban on the export of traditional Basmati rice of RS Pura. He always felt that this ban on the export of basmati rice has a severe effect on the economic success of farmers living in Jammu, Kathua and Samba districts. Earlier Basmati rice was the main source of income for farmers of the Jammu region especially farmers from the RS Pura region.
He believed that this ban on the export of basmati rice didn’t fetch proper returns. In fact, farmers didn’t even earn profit from what they sell which made it difficult for them to survive.
Then in 2004, the ban was lifted from the export of basmati rice after a hard struggle by the farmers. But in 2006 the ban was again re-imposed on the export of basmati rice. The state government gave the reason for reimposing the ban that it was unable to control the rates of basmati rice in the state. This statement by the government made difficulties for the farmers as now the rice traders and rice mill owners started fixing rates for the basmati rice which again made farmers to not earn a single penny as profit.
Till now Dev Raj and Dev Raj had developed the ability to feel the pulse of farmers and the government. In his speeches, he always used to say that basmati rice is being cultivated by seventy thousand to one lakh families in the districts of Jammu, Kathua, and Samba, and this because of the character and quality of basmati rice and also because of the sentiments of farmers who are cultivating basmati rice. Also, he never failed to mention the difficult conditions under which the basmati growers worked. He never missed mentioning that the farm where basmati is grown is along the International border and it is prone to enemy’s firing.
He explained that the area where basmati is grown has increased from 18.50 thousand hectares in the year 1997-97 to 31.99 thousand hectares in the year 2007-08. With the increasing area, the production level has also grown from 37.25 thousand tons to 86.79 thousand metric tons. The latest area under the cultivation of different varieties of basmati rice ranges from fifty thousand to sixty-two thousand hectares.
In 2010-11 the government removed the ban on the export of basmati-370 after the hard work of Dev Raj and other prominent farmers. Although the ban was lifted, still Dev Raj was unsatisfied. According to him about thirty thousand metric tons of basmati rice was obtained by the outsider buyers but in the absence of government policies the traders are still deciding the rate of rice and still, farmers are not getting their profit.
Choudhary Dev Raj played a crucial role as the president of RBGA. His contribution to agriculture made it easy for the higher authorities and scientists to find out immediate solutions. In his early seventies, he was suffering from kidney failure and fracture in his leg. On June 1st, 2020 he passed away leaving his dignity and prestige. Till his last breath, he only wished for the complete removal of the ban on the export of all other varieties of basmati rice.