Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Rapid Urbanization is Destroying Kashmir's Agrarian Economy

Migration of rural population to cities and conversion of farming land to industrial and residential uses are causing havoc in Kashmir's traditional food supply

Components of Kashmir Economy

Dr. Ali Mohammad Rather (Rising Kashmir)

Agriculture and Handicrafts are the two main components of the Kashmir economy. Kashmir like many other parts of the world has been an agricultural economy. The main production being rice, wheat and maize with vegetables and cash crops saffron, in a limited area. Horticultural produce such as: apples, pears, and other fruits as pomegranates, grapes, cherry, peaches and dry fruits like walnuts and almonds.

The present position is that only apples are produced in abundance. Pears not enough and other fruit too are limited. Though traditionally all the fruits mentioned above have enough chances to be grown in good quality and quantity. But it is surprising that why our government departments and agencies who have been assigned this job have not paid any heed to it. We have set up an agricultural university for the purpose but no appreciable and commendable work has been done in this field excepting for production and protection of apples, though there are complaints about its quality.

It is said that Kashmiri rice was the best one so far as the quality is concerned. The most tasteful qualities like mushkebudej, gulzug, which present generation can’t dream of, are extinct now. The varieties introduced, after independence by the government has more yield which was the increasing need of the society, due to population explosion. However, during the recent years less need of local produce is felt.

The production of rice is decreasing. Rice is the staple food of people of Kashmir. The probable causes, which led to this, may be:
• Decrease in the quantity of land by diverting it to other functions such as: orchards, brick kilns, construction of houses and so on.
• Disinterest in the cultivation of crops as production of rice is not qualitatively and quantitatively enough, to be motivating.
• Supply of rice by the government through ration stores has decreased the need of local produce.
• Engagement of rural people in modern jobs has decreased the manpower and laborers in the agricultural field. They have either no time or are not interested in the farming activities.
• The modernization has greatly influenced the production of agricultural yield. The educated rural youth who have remained detached from the traditional style of life, have least information or knowledge about the agricultural tasks. Thus, with increase in modern education, the life style is changing and people are getting disinterested from the agricultural activities. There are instances that agricultural graduates from rural areas are least interested in the practical agricultural activities.

There may be some other causes as well. But the most noticeable one is the use of farming land for construction purposes. Since the area of cities and towns is increasing. Also many industrial areas have been established. All this has affected the quantity of land.

Although there are legislations against the using of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes but in spite of this, construction is increasing day by day. The agricultural land being used for construction is not only taking place in urban areas but in rural areas as well. The urban peripheries in Srinagar had most of the land used for malyari i.e. production of vegetables. There was lot of malyari land in Srinagar. The vegetable growers comprised a special occupational group of Kashmir, who mostly inhabited in Srinagar and other towns. They were referred to as Danders. But now this occupational group has shrunken. Only in rare cases do we find vegetables being cultivated in Srinagar city. All the malyari land, even the marshy land called numbal has been turned into purni land i.e. construction land. That is why we are suffering from the shortage of vegetables and are forced to import all the vegetables.

Our vegetable sellers claim that the Nadru (oriental lotus) they sell is from Dal or Anchar or so, while as the fact is that they import it from Jammu or other outside places.

The only source of producing vegetable now is Dal Lake and surrounding areas. As government is now proposing to shift the Dalites to dry belt, the cultivation of vegetables in Dal area will come to an end and within some years, we won’t be able to get any local vegetable like Haanz Haak, Tole Hak, cucumber, etc. The local Nadru will also get extinct. Government must be very careful and thoughtful in this regard. There is no alternative to shifting of Dalites from the lake but alternative arrangement must be made so that vegetables etc, being grown in the lake continue to be grown and we must not be devoid of the tasteful vegetables from the Dal and made dependent upon the vegetables from import.

An important source of our income is handicrafts. Kashmir is famous all over the world for its valuable handicrafts. It is said that when Heun Tsewang came to Kashmir, he was gifted a Kani shawl. It is a wrong statement that shawl came to Kashmir from Central Asia, just during Shahmiri era. It is being wrongly credited to to Haider Duglat. It is true that Mir syed Ali Hamdani and other people from Iran etc. gifted a lot to us, which includes Paper Machie and carpets. But Kashmiris were no less artisans and artists. The famous Alchi monastery in Ladakh still keeps the Kashmiri artists’ glorious paintings and statues within it. Kashmiris were great artists in every period of time, since ancient times. Kashmiri shawl was exported to France during medieval era and French Kings Louis used to wear these. Kashmiri carpets are no less than the Iranian carpet. Our paper machie has its own glory. Similarly there are other handicrafts which are peerless in the world. But why is this all in shambles? We must try to find out the reasons and then the solution to the problems.

No comments: