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.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Fallout from a Heated Economy Sustained by Easy Money and Poor Planning

Only 5% of the valley can be cultivated, and even that meagre land is fast disappearing. Latest report followed by an Editorial

Shrinking Agriculture land concerns Kashmiri farmers

Srinagar: The constant shrinking of agriculture lands in the Kashmir valley has become a cause of concern to farmers of the state.

The rapid increase in the urbanization and allied infrastructure development activities are considered as the main reason for the shrinking of agricultural land in the valley.

The farmers fear that the growing trend of private builders purchasing the agricultural land for building residential colonies, complexes.

The farming community also fears that this would lead Kashmir valley towards a devastating situation of food crisis in coming years.

"From the past ten to twenty years, there have been no restrictions on the construction of these houses. Although the government has laws, rules and regulations, but till now they haven''t been implemented yet. If government agencies will not pay attention to this problem, then it is possible that in years to come, sufficient land might not be available for our next generation," said Bilal Wani, a farmer.

Ninety five per cent of land in Kashmir valley is not suitable for any kind of cultivation activities and land sharks are encroaching upon the remaining 5 per cent of cultivable portion.

These trends have become a cause of immense worries among the farmers and evident are the instances of extensive construction activities.

Though the law prevents the use of agricultural land for the non-agricultural purposes, the authorities express helplessness sighting poor or no updated land records.

"Our revenue records are not updated as yet. The revenue records still have the usual statement that this land is barren. And because of such a state, the houses are being constructed on the agriculture land. As and when the authorities check the record books regarding the condition of the land to grant permission, they give permission on the basis of what is written in the reports. So the need of the hour is to update the record books," opined Bashir Ahmed Dar, Director of Agriculture.

Presently around 1.60 thousands hectares of land is under paddy cultivation while it is believed that over the past decade, ten thousand hectares of cultivable land in the valley region has been usurped due to urbanization. (Etalaat News)
Save Agrarian Land (Editorial in Kashmir Images)

Agriculture being the main economy of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, one would expect the authorities to be more focused on this sector and try to boost it in all spheres. This sector, if exploited properly and innovatively, would help the state to deal effectively with the biggest challenge it is face to face with – unemployment. It is the agriculture and horticulture sector which have tremendous employment potential but because the governments that be have never taken these sectors more seriously, this potential remains untried and untested.

It is shocking that while in entire world new experiments are being done in agriculture sector, Kashmir, by and large, remains stuck in traditional farming. There are no innovative schemes which would attract farmers to try new crops and seeds. The agriculture authorities, understandably, would be having the know-how of all new and modern techniques of farming but the problem is that there is no mass awareness. There may be schemes which would help the farmers to have better produces, but these schemes never reach to the farmers.

The agriculture department needs to launch a massive awareness campaign and attract farmers towards more productive crops and seeds instead of remain stuck to the traditional farming.

That said, the authorities are playing blind to an issue of very serious nature which is going to have disastrous impact over the agricultural industry. Despite a ban on the use of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes, construction of residential houses, commercial complexes and other huge concrete buildings is going on unabated in the length and breadth of the Valley. Move from Srinagar to any direction – Gulmarg; Pattan; Bandipora; Budgam; Anannag; Ganderbal etc, what used to be huge paddy fields are now vast jungles of concrete.

Private educational institutions, housing colonies, shopping complexes, that is what one sees surfacing all over in the agricultural land. The state government is armed with laws and provision to stop construction in agriculture land and even stop of use of agricultural land for non-agricultural activities (which even includes using it for horticulture purposes), but these laws have never been invoked.

The government, time and again, continues issuing circulars asserting that agricultural land should not be used for non-agricultural purposes but fact of the matter is that the more these circulars, the more agricultural land vanished under huge concrete structures. The revenue department and the agriculture department have shut their eyes and people are turning very productive and fertile paddy fields into jungles of concrete. Somuchso, the world famous saffron fields of Pampore too have not been spared. These fields too are falling to human greed and people are busy using these fields for construction purposes.

If the trend continues, Kashmiri saffron would vanish from the scene once for all. Government needs to look into the issue very seriously and people too should understand that their greed of earning more will deprive coming generations of the food.

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