Introduction to KashmirForum.org 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.
www.kashmirforum.org

Saturday, June 7, 2008

"World's Best Saffron Grows Here" - However the end is near

Disappearing Saffron - victim of inefficient farming, government apathy and growing urbanisation

SAFFRON: THE SPICE STORY

Nusrat Ara

World's Best Saffron Grows Here - A billboard greets you at Pampore, Kashmir's saffron heartland 15 km from summer capital Srinagar. But the slogan is slowly losing its sheen as the slopes of Pampore are struggling to preserve their prized possession.

The rich aroma of saffron marks all celebrations in Kashmir, as the Saffron Kehwa, a traditional beverage is a must on such occasions. No festivity is considered complete without it. In India the majority Hindu community on various auspicious and religious occasions uses saffron as well as in various traditional ayurvedic medicines.

On the bank on River Jehlum, the karevas of Pampore have for years taken pride in producing the costliest spice in the world. Apart from Kashmir, saffron is grown mostly at two places in the world, Iran and Spain. In Kashmir too, it is only the karevas of Pampore and the Kishtwar valley in Jammu province that are gifted with the rare spice. Saffron is used for various medicinal and culinary purposes. Commonly held belief traces the cultivation of saffron first to Persia, the present day Iran, which still is the largest producer of the spice. While Iran accounts for about 80 per cent of total world production the quality of the Kashmir Saffron is considered the best. Greece, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Morocco, Italy, Egypt and China are other minor producing countries.

In Kashmir Saffron is cultivated in more than 226 villages, which makes its business a significant employer especially in the saffron belt itself. Nowadays, saffron consumption is rising while the production is not keeping pace.

A victim of government apathy and growing urbanisation, Saffron production has over the years reduced from 16 metric tones to a dismal 6 metric tones per annum.

Although the major decline in production can be attributed to decrease in the area under Saffron cultivation and lack of irrigation facilities, experts say farmers are not employing the best (cultivation) practices.

The vast saffron fields remain dormant until mid-October when the bulbs germinate underneath the dry earth sprouting green shoots. In autumn (November) the bulbs bloom with purple flowers colouring the vast dull brown earth into bright purple.

Maryam, 60, married in Srinagar was born in Pampore. She is "emotionally attached" to the Saffron land she inherited from her parents. But the production has been perpetually decreasing. "Earlier I used to lease out the land to a saffron grower who would give me peanuts. Now I am getting better returns but the production on the whole has been decreasing", says Maryam. Many reason are being cited for the gradual decline in saffron production.

(Rising Kashmir)

1 comment:

Sharbendu said...

Was nice reading about the Saffron trade. I knew that a Saffron festival is annually held in mid-sept. Is that true? I read in your article that the cultivation and following processes take place around November. I thought it is is mid-sept. Would be nice to know more on this. If you could also email me at sharbendude@yahoo.com

Best
Sharbendu De