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Wasting precious land

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Couple of years back, the J&K High Court asserted that it will no longer tolerate violation of its orders vis-à-vis putting an end to the constructions in arable agrarian land. The court also said that henceforth the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir would be held personally responsible for any violations in this regard. These directions came in the face of complaints that despite court directions, conversion of agricultural land into concrete jungles (commercial and residential complexes) was going on unabated and that the Revenue and Civic authorities were only being silent spectators to all this. However, despite these court directions, nothing much has changed. The constrictions on the agricultural land have continued unabated and the concerned agencies vested with the responsibility of saving this precious asset have hardly been doing anything in this regard.

Carrying out constructions on the agricultural lands would simply not be possible without active complicity and tacit support of the concerned agencies including even the police. Indeed Kashmir Valley which is already dependant on other states for the supply of food wouldn’t have lost as much of land to non-farming ventures if the concerned authorities had followed law and ensured its implementation on the ground. But it didn’t happen. Though turbulent political situation was also a factor as enforcing the rule of law was a tricky business for over a decade or so, but it is also a reality that the damage that has been done didn’t happen during the turbulent nineties alone. It started before that and is continuing even today when government claims have re-established its writ.

Indeed Kashmir has the unique distinction of being a place where government itself initiated this trend of land conversion when it established housing colonies in arable agrarian lands and natural wetlands and flood basins. The disastrous repercussions of that foolish policy showed itself in worst form during the floods of September 2014 when the colonies that have come up in these flood-basins remained dangerously inundated for weeks. So when government itself is culpable of subverting laws and norms, for the ordinary people it is a virtual go-head to do everything and anything that pleases them, laws, rules and norms notwithstanding. Now add to it the unfortunate reality of widespread and highly institutionalized corruption here, it then becomes common sense that laws and rules remain exclusively for those ‘fools’ who either want to obey them of their own sweet choice and will, or who do not know how to buy detours by paying bribes!

Now coming to the constructions, and the way they are being carried out here, one could say with absolute surety that Valley must be looking like the bottom of an ocean – where everything is just lying around in absolute madness and without any order whatsoever. And now commercial complexes and shopping malls are also spreading like small-pox on it. Some people may pat themselves for having built sophisticated and modern shopping centres and other related infrastructure, and some others for having struck the proverbial goldmine through such ventures, but is this general trend? Are all such shopping complexes and malls doing good? Certainly not! At a place where government-built and owned premier mall – Sangarmal – built right in the heart of the city at most ideal and central location with all necessary facilities, is a failed venture, it should not be difficult to guess what might be the commercial viability of other such commercial complexes that have come up, and are still being constructed throughout the Valley. By the way, in case of Sangarmal, besides the government’s (SDA to be precise) mismanagement and bad planning, it is a bunch a private business-people who have dealt a death blow to it by procuring commercial spaces in bulk only to keep them locked up!

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