Save agricultural land

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The agricultural land in Kashmir is shrinking with every passing day and a concrete jungle is emerging on huge patches of paddy fields in almost every part of the Valley. Once a promising food bowl, Kashmir 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. Though, besides court orders, the media and the concerned citizens have been voicing their concerns about the issue, 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.

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. 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 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!

It is high time that the government focuses on this issue. True that with the increase in population more and more structures become need of the time. But at the same time saving the land too is equally important. It would be advisable if government encourages people to go for vertical construction. It should made it mandatory for all government departments and the business house to use the minimum land and should discourage horizontal constructions.

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