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.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Disaster in the Making

There is a crisis up ahead if we keep urbanizing rural lands. Two reports

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 Service)

Shortage of productive land in J&K will have a direct effect on food grain supply in future (Editorial in the Rising Kashmir)

The agricultural sector of Jammu and Kashmir has over the years been in focus but only for wrong reasons. The production of paddy and wheat has remained stagnant over the last fifteen years. In real terms it has shown a rapid decline. J&K produces 8,44,734 tonnes of paddy and 49,590 tonnes of wheat on annual basis in contrast to the demand of more than 15 lakh tonnes.

Now this calls for introspection at all levels - policy planners, agricultural scientists, farmers and everybody interested in food security of Jammu and Kashmir. The reasons for low produce or dwindling produce during the last two decades are more than can be counted on fingers. Growing paddy as commercial crop has become non-remunerative due to low yield and single crop system.

Farmers are switching over to cash crops that fetch better returns and conversion of wet paddy land is receiving increased attention from peasantry in Kashmir. One can easily observe the masses of land that are being developed as orchards in fruit belts of North and South of Kashmir as apple of late has turned into a much better crop when in comes to investment-return tradeoff. True this makes sense in terms of earnings from the land to growers, but what has spurred this trend is the scarcity of water for irrigating the land.

The studies carried over by irrigation departments of the State have thrown up interesting facts about the availability of water for irrigation. J&K needs 18,606.75 cusecs against an available supple of 13,372.74 cusecs. The gap needs to be filled up by taking up initiatives in irrigation capacity building.

According to a survey 263246 hectares of land is cultivated for rice, 278301 for wheat and 302445 for maize and rice produced from this land amounts to 562000 tonnes that is not able to suffice for four months. So there is a gap of eight months which is met from exports from adjacent Punjab and Haryana. There is also a need to provide for more funds for research in areas of rice, wheat and maize grown in high altitude areas.

To top it all the State has 855407 kanals of land under the occupation of forces besides the two lakh Kanals that have been provided on lease basis. How much of this vast land is productive again throws up plethora of questions.

The shortage of productive land in J&K will have a direct effect on food grain supply in future as well. What ever the reasons, policy needs to be framed towards having self sufficiency of food production in the State in the long run and for this the government needs to act now.

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