Srinagar: Should the people of the state and the government be worried by the fact that agricultural land in the state, especially Kashmir Valley is shrinking, that too at a rapid pace.
Estimates suggest that during the past five decades, Kashmir has lost 42,000 hectares of agricultural land to non-agricultural purposes and conversion is taking place fast due to multiple factors. Prime among the factors responsible for the fast conversion is low yield and returns in agricultural activity.
Official data says that Kashmir, which is primarily a landlocked Valley, is already running short of agricultural land. The state had 1,63,000 hectare agricultural land available in 1952 when the population was only 18 lakh. However, during the following years, the conversion of land took place at a fast pace and during 50 years, the land shrunk to 141,740 hectares. Even the land under the Kandi category shrunk to 80,014 from 1,00000 hectares.
Besides, agricultural land, the land under saffron cultivation too has witnessed faster conversions with more than 2000 hectares of land shrunk in just 16 years.
The government also admitted during the recently concluded assembly session in Jammu that the agriculture land is shrinking in the state with every passing day due to growing population, urbanization, industrialization, expansion of road, rail network and unauthorized change of land use.
But the mere acceptance of the menace is not proving enough on ground. The government has to own up its failure in stopping conversion of agricultural land and admit that it approach has been lackadaisical on this crucial issue.
Though the government enacted an act called ‘The Jammu & Kashmir Prohibition on Conversion of Agricultural Land for Non- Agricultural Purposes Act 2011’ (L.A. Bill No. 15 of 2011) to arrest the menace of conversion of agricultural land for non- agricultural purposes strictly in the State. But the Bill was referred to a select committee and even the bill lapsed later. However, the existing provisions in J&K land Revenue Act and Agrarian Reforms Act, which deal in conversion of certain types of land, are too not being implemented.
What is worrying is that the dependence for agricultural products has increased in the state especially Kashmir Valley. The shrinking farmlands are contributing towards the state’s dependence on imports to meet food requirements in the state.
As such the state’s dependence on imports has reached to its highest level of about 1 lakh metric tonnes in 2016-17. The economic survey report 2017 reveals that in 2002-03, J&K imported 503 thousand metric tonnes of food grains, which rose to 952.55 thousand metric tonnes in 2016-17 due to shrinking farmlands.
All this has happened as the people converted agricultural land into commercial and residential purposes. People have constructed residential houses, shopping complexes, farms and other establishments to earn revenue while the Governments also did not interfere to stop these conversions.
The government now needs to wake up from its slumber and stress on putting brakes on the rate at which the state’s agricultural land is shrinking. Besides, the agricultural activities need to be promoted and subsequently subsidized so as to bring in young blood into the agricultural activities. This will ensure that the revenue generation from the agricultural sector will increase and thereby improve the returns for the growers as well.