‘JK lost estimated 10 lakh kanls of agricultural land in last one decade’
With the shrinof agricultural land on a massive scale, experts on Monday sounded an alert that the move could pose a serious food security threat in the landlocked Kashmir regoin.
According to the experts, conversion of agricultural land into horticulture, commercial complexes and residential houses have a devastating impact on food security. They said agriculture sector, which is very important, is being neglected by the government.
Commercial and residential colonies are coming up across the Valley with the summer capital, Srinagar also losing prime land pockets. Besides, farmers in Kashmir were converting the agricultural land including paddy fields into horticulture.
Experts said that there is no strong agricultural policy in place, which can help save our agricultural land.
“There is a massive agricultural land devastation and changes across Kashmir region,” Head, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Kashmir, Prof Shakeel Ramshoo told Rising Kashmir. He said, besides conversion of agricultural land into commercial and residential houses , people were selling rice fields and changing agricultural land into horticulture purposes.
"The agricultural land is shrinking and there is an expansion of horticulture land. People are converting agriculture land into horticulture as it gives them good economic returns," he said.
He said , recently, the government announced a scheme to provide subsidy to the farmers for planting high-density apple orchards.
"The government seems only focused on promoting horticulture sector. However , there is no strong agricultural policy which can help save the agricultural land," he said.
" We cannot eat apples only. We are more dependent on agricultural produce. The government should take a step and promote the agricultural sector as well," he said.
Commenting on the same, Director of Agriculture, Kashmir, Altaf Aijaz Andrabi told Rising Kashmir that although the agriculture department is mostly dealing with the production but the department raises awareness about the importance of agricultural land through awareness camps and programs.
“Conversion of agricultural land into the non- agricultural activities is a very bad practice. Agriculture sector has a very rich importance in the Valley," he said.
Andrabi said the conversion of agricultural land into commercial complexes and residential colonies is a menace. “It has affected the horticulture sector as well. If this conversion would not be stopped, then we are leaving no legacy for our future generation. It has to stop, as agriculture has a great importance and value in the state. "
Jammu and Kashmir has lost an estimated 10 lakh kanals of agricultural land to non-agricultural purposes in the past 10 years primarily because of non-implementation the land conversion laws.
Official data further reveals that Jammu and Kashmir had 8.47 lakh hectare agriculture land in 2005-6 which has shrunk to 7.94 lakh hectare till 2015 - 16. This means, an estimated 53,000 hectare farmland (equivalent to 10 lakh, 60 thousand kanal) has been converted to non-agricultural use.
According to the official record, the area under paddy cultivation was 158,000 hectare in 2012, shrinking to 141,000 hectare in 2015-16.
In Kashmir alone, more than two lakh kanals of agriculture land of the net sown or cultivated area of 3.5 lakh hectares (70 lakh kanals) has been converted for commercial and other purposes, a report prepared by the Agriculture Department in 2011, revealed.
The unabated conversion has become a major cause for spurt in food imports. In last three years, the import of food grains has witnessed considerable increase from 756.60 thousand metric tonnes in 2014 - 15 to 952.55 thousand metric tonnes in 2016-17.
Despite ban, the residential and commercial structures are coming up in North Kashmir. However in South Kashmir, people are selling agricultural land with authorities’ concerned acting as mute spectators.
Deputy Commissioner Baramulla, Ghulam Nabi Itoo told Rising Kashmir that the government has banned the conversation of agricultural land into commercial or residential colonies. So, non-agricultural activities will be allowed.
He assured strict action against the persons involved in conversion of the land. " We have strictly directed all Tehsildars to check the illegal conversion of agricultural land. No conversion can take place," he said.
Concerned over rampant conversion of farmland for other purposes, the agriculture department few months back had directed its officers to take enforcement agencies on board to tighten the noose around law violators.
The department has also asked its officials to stop "Unplanned constructions like raising of colonies, factories, brick kilns, shopping complexes and other commercial establishments are severely affecting agriculture sector of the state."
But the government has failed to check the blatant violation as revenue department, the nodel agency to implement the laws, district administrations and policy makers have deliberately turned a blind eye towards arresting such practices.
The state government couple of years back issued an order regarding its policy on changing the land use in which it blamed housing policy for the unplanned growth of residential and commercial establishments.
The order also cited the laws on land use and permissions to change the same – for instance Section 133-A of the J&K Land Revenue Act that says ‘No land growing Shali crops, Vegetables or Saffron Lullis can be put to any use other than the purposes mentioned above, without obtaining prior permission of the Revenue Minister or an officer duly authorized by him in this behalf is required for conversion of agriculture land’.
The second was Section 13 of the J&K Agrarian Reforms Act, 1976 that prevents the conversion of agriculture land.
To stop conversion of agriculture land for commercial purposes in the State, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court recently said that the violators have been “changing the land with impunity.”
Seeking implementation of all directions it passed from time to time with regard to the issue in letter and spirit, the court also directed all the deputy commissioners of the State to file fresh status reports, indicating in tabulated form the number of violations noticed and action taken, if any, against the violators.
The court impressed on all Deputy Commissioners (Collectors) to ensure that all revenue authorities at different levels take stern action against the violators and file action taken reports.