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.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Imagine saffron fields becoming plots for housing construction

Basharat reports on an impending tragedy

(Mr. Syed Basharat, 29, was born in Kreeri, Baramulla, and did his schooling in Kreeri, and later in Uri and Sopore. He graduated from the Degree College in Baramulla and completed his Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 2005. He has been a reporter for Kashmir Images, a Srinagar based daily, London based website Gaashonline.Com, and a Srinagar based journal, Globe. Currently, he is working as a special correspondent with Jammu based daily newspaper, The Kashmir Times.)

Saffron vanishing due to official apathy as farmers convert farms into commercial space

SRINAGAR: Callousness, coupled with the inherited lethargy of the State
government, is what has led to the vanishing of Kashmiri saffron; the yield of
which has drastically slowed down during the last one decade, the farmers
associated with the Saffron cultivation said. However, shifting blame on farmers
the authorities allege that farmers are no more interested in cultivating the
yellow gold. Instead they want to sell the saffron land or raise structures on
the same.

Figures given by the farmers reveal a drastic decline in the world’s costliest
spice. President Saffron Growers and Dealers Association, Ghulam Mohammad Bhat alias Pampori while talking to the Kashmir Times said: “In late 1980s the annual yield of saffron was 35 to 40,000 Kilograms in the entire State. But the same was 7000 Kilograms in 2006; in 2007 it was 12,000 Kilograms and last year it declined to 4000 Kilograms only! The government’s concern can be well gauged that since 1947, there has been only one awareness seminar cum workshop in Saffron sector that took place on June 13, 2001 organised by union ministry of commerce at Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agriculture Science and Technology (SKUAST).”

On the other hand these figures are contradicted by a subject matter specialist
Tariq Ahmad Shah who blames farmers for the decline of the costliest spice in
Kashmir. Shah says: “The farmers want to use the saffron land for constructions
or simply want to sell it against huge sums. Investment for better yield and
crop conservation is not their concern.”

According to Shah in 2004-05 the total yield of Saffron in Kashmir division was
69 quintals which was cultivated over 3100 hectares of land. In 2005- 06 this
figure raised to 75 quintals cultivated over 3200 hectares. In 2006-07 the yield
was and the area under cultivation remained the same. And in the year 2007-08
the yield slowed down to 68 quintals only cultivated over 3800 hectares of land.
A major decline is revealed if these figures are compared with that of 1996- 97.
In that year the yield was 175 quintals and in 2001-02 it came down to 36
quintals only. Reasons, Shah said are, no assured irrigation, and engaging
labourers from the outside state who are mostly unskilled. Besides, he added
that the ratio of saffron comb and that of the land in which it is sowed matters
in terms of yield.

Shah further said that the government had already organised many programmes to enhance awareness level of farmers but all in vain. “It is not only the investment but lack of proper irrigation, and poor quality fertilisers which experts said, are the other reasons for the declining saffron,” Shah observed further.

In Iran he added that the farmers sow five tons of saffron combs per hectare
while as in Kashmir farmers sow 10-20 quintals per hectare. “Scientifically
saffron plant population should be 25000 per kanal. There is late recycling of
these plants in Kashmir. The farmers change these plants with the new ones after
around 25 years. Besides farmers compliant about pollution which does not affect
the entire saffron cultivation area,” Shah opined. He advised that the organic
manure should be used 20 tons per hectare that means one ton per Kanal.

It is pertinent to mention here that in Kashmir the saffron comes second after
the fruit industry in terms of its economic importance. It is grown in 226
villages in five districts of the State which include Anantnag, Pulwama,
Srinagar, Budgam, Doda and Kishtwar.

According to Pampori it is the lackadaisical attitude of the government towards
this sector besides drought, disease and pollution which have been the worst
factors contributing to a sharp decline of this multipurpose orange colour
spice. “It was only after the Kashmiri saffron started declining that saffron
from Iran started landing in India. It is the callousness of the state
government which is responsible for the decline in saffron production,” Pampori

He complained of no irrigation, no subsidy on fertilisers, no insurance and
above all no formal training to the farmers for the low yield of the spice in Kashmir.

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