Food Scarcity

Two years ago, the state’s Economic Survey had come out with a perturbing projection about Jammu and Kashmir facing an acute shortage of food grains by 2030 when the annual requirement would be 1.82 million tons. Experts have given a variety of reasons for this grave impending crisis, ranging from changing food patterns to loss of agricultural land.  The survey, however, has missed an important point. It makes no mention of land lost to militarization. According to rough estimates, the armed forces have occupied around 25 lakh kanals of land in the state. Therefore, besides the conversion of agricultural land for residential and commercial purposes, massive militarization is a major reason in turning Jammu and Kashmir into a food deficit state. If the masses are responsible for the loss of agricultural land, authorities cannot escape responsibility for compounding the problem further.

The powers-that-be have been trumpeting peace from the rooftops over the past few years, with official figures indicating and asserting only a handful of militants left active in the state. Does the government need half-a-million troops to fight a couple of hundred militants? The state has to go for demilitarization and this time the reasons for it are not political. The survival of the state is at stake and demilitarization can give some respite.  But the Government of India seems to be in no mood to demilitarize even residential areas. A few years ago, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president, Mahbooba Mufti, talked about restoring the1988. In 1988, the army was in the barracks. But it came out to fight a handful of militants and `conquered’ new territory including a number of residential areas during the past two decades. Agricultural land was also `conquered’ to accommodate military and paramilitary camps across Kashmir. Now the army is reluctant to vacate the areas, notwithstanding the `favourable change in the situation.’ Mahbooba’s demand went in vain.

The Government of India is not willing to contemplate sending troops back to the barracks, not even when food scarcity can safely be added to the list of social, economic and psychological consequences of militarization. The state will face a 36 per cent food grain deficiency in 2013-14. The deficit is expected to go up to 40 per cent by 2020-21 and to 50 per cent by 2030-31. The GoI’s only response seems to be to grab more land for more military camps for ‘national defence.” Evidently, rice and wheat will be grown on Mars.