Focusing on agriculture

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While the Jammu and Kashmir government is focusing on adoption of new smart technologies to meet the future challenges of Agriculture and allied sectors to increase the efficiency making farming more profitable thus helping small and marginal farmers, there is a bog challenge that the agriculture sector is face to face with and that is the shrinking agricultural land. Kashmir Valley, once a promising food bowl, is losing its arable agrarian land on an alarming pace. Despite standing court directions in this regard, conversion of agricultural land into concrete jungles (commercial and residential complexes) is going on unabated and the Revenue and Civic authorities are only being silent spectators to all this. Along with the intervention of judiciary, the civil society and media too have been regularly voicing concerns abit the issue but nothing much has changed. The constructions 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. It goes without saying that carrying out constructions on the agricultural lands would simply not be possible without active complicity and tacit support of the concerned agencies. 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 that it has re-established its writ.

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. Once famous Doodhganga stretch along Baramaloo was flooded by the constructions made by then SMC. When Srinagar Development Authority, that is supposed to take care of Srinagar, constructs its own headquarters in erstwhile water bodies, people feel free to violate each and every law. 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 that the UT administration is focussing on agriculture sector seriously and has been taking steps to modernise it so that it becomes profitable and thus attractive for younger generation, it seriously needs to ensure that no more agricultural land is lost to non-agrarian utilities. Agriculture and horticulture are the two main sectors that run J&K’s economy. Unfortunately, these sectors were always neglected and left to traditional way for farming without any scientific intervention. Lack of modern technology did huge damage to these sectors and as a result, people started drifting away from farming. The youth lost interest as the sectors were not able to ensure proper livelihood. Now that the Union Territory government has decided to give boost to the sector and introduce modern technologies, hopefully the farming will become profitable and the government will succeed in ensuring that no more agricultural land is lost.

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