Syed Karar Hashmi

Conversion of agricultural land for non-farming purposes

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In Jammu and Kashmir Agriculture is the key industry and economy is predominately depend on it, as 80 percent people in the state are directly or indirectly linked with agriculture.

Land being a limited resource would continue to be under pressure in future due to conversion of agricultural land for non-farming purposes.  According to the records available (1992), the total area of the state is 24.15 Lakh hectares. Out of which, 138, 6867 Sq kms are rural and 305.4 Sq km are urban.

It is to be noted that the statistics is available for only 8.26 lakh hectares. The rest of the area is under mountains and forests. In our state 80% of the population depends on the agriculture but the proportion of labour force engaged in agriculture has declined from 85% in 1961, to 28% today.

The state imports about 40 percent of food grains and 20 percent of vegetables to meet its requirements. In year 2000, 38 percent of earth’s land area was agricultural land but only 11 percent were used for crops. Both residential and commercial buildings are coming up on the agricultural land, which need to be checked and curbed. It is unfortunate that tourist places in Kashmir Gulmarg , Sonamarg, Pahalgam , etc. an important asset of State are demographically changed into cities and colonies by ongoing construction of hotels , homes, service centers , schools , shopping malls, commercial complexes,   restaurants and  VIP huts.

On the other hand, government is silent on such major issue not enforcing the laws to deal with and to stop such menace. In 2012, the honorable High Court of J&K passed directions to all the Deputy Commissioners with an aim to ensure the implementation of the provisions of agricultural act and land revenue act. The said direction demands to stop the conversion of agricultural land on the respective jurisdictions of the state monitored by commissioners. At the end of the day, nothing could be seen on ground for appreciation.

We are losing 228 Kanals of agricultural land a day and are completely dependent on outside supplies of food products by misusing the agricultural land in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.  It seems that government officials at highest level are itself involved in such game plane, so enforcement of law will not show its colors.

In 2011, under the chairmanship of Horticulture Ministry a committee was setup by the government for preservation of the agricultural land. It is unfortunate that the said committee failed to reach at the conclusion, reasons best known to the politicians. The proposed legislation was allegedly stopped due to high level political pressure without taking into view the aspiration and demand of the common people.

The continue conversion of agricultural land for commercial purposes is a matter of grave concern but the silence of policy makers on such public issue is much more reason of concern. It is hard reality that we are completely dependent on outside supplies and therefore saving the agricultural land should be the priority.

Under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna (PMGSY) the state has lost 875.665 hectares of forest land , used for road construction and for which the concerned government had incurred an expenditure of Rs over 270 crores. It seems that so called development in Kashmir is basically a nightmare for us. Reportedly land in Jammu and Kashmir has shrunk from 0.08 hectare per person in 2001 to 0.06 hectare per person in 2012. This will pose a serious threat to the commonly known as green gold of Kashmir.

These serious issues need political will to safeguard. Where we are going with such a fast speed? I firmly believe that in 2030, there may not be an inch of agricultural land.

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