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, October 20, 2009

Exchanging Cultivating Land for Monetary Wealth

Bashir is concerned how corruption in land management and personal greed is reducing cultivatable land in Kashmir. Presently 65% food requirement of the state is being met locally as against 80% previously

(Mr. Bashir Wani is the Administrator of Associated Hospital, Srinagar.)

Bleak Future Awaits Kashmir

No other community shall be as insensitive to the future of its generation as people of Jammu and Kashmir. The concept of land use and land management is a distant idea in the state; even engineering departments are no exception. Land especially wheat and paddy growing is being ruthlessly converted into residential / commercial areas. As per records of Agriculture Department only few years back 275.824 thousand hectares and 271.00 thousand hectares of land in the State was under paddy and wheat cultivation respectively.

Today it has come down to 258.526 thousand hectares and 261.49 thousand hectares. Moreover, physically the area has further come down and as per rough estimates only 180 and 201 thousand hectares of land are under such cultivation at present. This onslaught is on an increase and there seems to be no end to it with the result with every passing day new residential colonies and industrial sites are coming up across the state with least regard for proper land use. The government authorities are maintaining such criminal silences as if they are doing very good for their people. Violations are allowed with impunity. The land mafia has grown so strong that the government either fears taking any action against them or is in hand and glove with them. The civil society and self styled NGOs are also watching the menace unconcerned as if they too are a part of the game. Whatever is happening is not a secret to anybody as everything is happening before the nose of each and every person. Trison City, Cooperative Colony Narbal, Umer Abad Zainakote, Sun City Pampore, Cooperative Colony Peerbagh, Sheikh-ul-Alam Colony and myriad other beautifully named colonies at Hyderpora, by pass and other towns are just a tip of the iceberg.

The menace is not restricted to cities and towns only but has spread its tentacles across the nook and corners of the state. The worst part of the issue is that paddy cultivation is seen as most cumbersome and less lucrative so the people are also converting the said land into orchards and raw material sources for brick kilns. Section 133 of land Revenue Act though provides safe guards against such violations, the implementing agency of the Act is either in a deep slumber or has crumbled under its own weight of influence, both material and political. No doubt, some short comings are inborn in the Act but social obligations and sincerity, if exercised, are stronger elements of protection and do have over ridding effect on such weaknesses.

The softness of Act is used as a tool to earn money and good will by the persons at the helm. The suo motto cognizance by the then Honb’le. Chief justice, B.A.Khan, of this grave issue, did not yield the desired results as the orders passed by him also withered away with the passage of time either because of his retirement or these were not too strong to punish the violators and those abetting it. Admittedly, no constitution guarantees freedom of not allowing others to live or make others to starve before they open their eyes. We are heading towards a catastrophe where from it will be very difficult to retreat and our future generations will be left with no choice but to curse us. How long will Punjab state cater to our food requirements?

Besides fatten the Bank accounts of Netas and babus of Food and supplies department (CAPD). Presently 65% food requirement of the state is being met locally as against 80% previously. However, the situation is bound to worsen further if we and our government continue to remain insensitive to the issue and do not wake up. The government finds it difficult to arrange 25 to 35% of food requirement of the state at present and it would be next to impossible for it to arrange 100% food in the coming years that too when Punjab and other States are also loosing agricultural land at a fast pace.

The paddy growing land normally requires retained water for three to four months as such the water gets gradually percolated in the soil which not only raises water table but serves as future water reservoir. Thus conversion of land is threatening survival of humans, animals and vegetation. Food security is one of the preambles of Human rights and in case the government fails to provide this security to its subjects it has no right to continue in the office. As per conservative estimates at least 10% of paddy/wheat growing land in the State is every year either converted or left uncultivated, just to further the interests of land mafia, meaning thereby that by next ten years i.e. by 2020 we shall be left with no land to cultivate and disastrous situation is any body’s guess.

This menace can be stopped if the government rises above political considerations and musters enough courage to deal with the situation, judiciary plays its social role, law implementing agencies at all levels discharge their duties honestly, police also take cognizance of such violations like other criminal acts, civil society discourages such violations, NGO’s come forward to act as watch dogs and media launches awareness campaigns.

To accomplish the task a strong legislation envisaging demolition of all such colonies, initiating criminal proceedings against builders indulging in such practice, panelizing land owners leaving their paddy lands uncultivated or converting the same as orchards or brick kilns, ensuring food security to all present and future generation, making law enforcing agencies accountable and personally responsible for all such violations, besides Revenue Department, Agriculture Department made responsible for taking action against violators.

The housing needs of people can be tackled by enforcing land management and changing mind set of people to go for multi storied residential buildings at barren and khushki lands. The government shall be responsible to provide all infrastructural facilities at such places to encourage people to opt for the same.

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