Food scarcity in Kashmir

Kashmir is known the world over for its immense natural resources that give it a paradise personification in the world. The region is famous for the cultivation of a rich heritage of culture, cuisines, and crops that are the famous world over.

Whether it be cash crop saffron, horticultural crop apple or agricultural crops, the valley is second to none in producing enormous wealth out of these natural resources. In addition to that, being cultivatively suitable for various types of farming activities, more than 70 percent of population is directly dependent on agriculture for their livelihood.

But from some time now, the agricultural land is shrinking rapidly with people switching over their means of livelihood to nonagricultural settlements with over 10 lakh canals of agricultural land being converted for non-agricultural purposes in a decade, making Jammu & Kashmir food deficit (official figures produced by Greater Kashmir publication).

The government lately in a move to deter the practice of unabated conversion of farmlands, has decided and directed that harsh disciplinary action against erring officials under whose jurisdiction conversion takes place. Though this has put a cessation of the conversion activities at the ground zero, but has not put an end to un-ecofriendly conversion.

This land conversion will have detrimental effect on the very sustainability of food resources in state as the population is increasing at a very fast pace and will declining food resources, state government will have to face the brunt of damage thereof. It is not only of food that we get from it, but the ecology of state is directly dependent on the sustainability of these resources, if these green treasures are cut shot, the ecology of sate will be effected greatly.

Kashmir is famous for these multitude of green resources world over. People from different parts of world are visiting valley for these natural resources that give them a soul refreshing experience. Officials of State dispensation in revenue department have been warned that if found hand in glove with persons involved in agriculture land conversion will be taken to task.

Despite having law in place, the same was not implemented in toto as they themselves had proclaimed that there is no need to implement it. As per the ministry concerned, the menace is personally monitored by officials and have stopped conversion at various places, but still the pace of conversion is ringing the alarm bells that if the process is not completely stopped early or lately, the state will have to face the brunt of malpractice.

More or less, the unplanned constructions like raising of colonies, factories, brick kilns, shopping complexes and other commercial establishments have severely affected the agricultural landscape of the state.

People are now more related towards modern means of earning their livelihoods and have focused their attention to more technical and extensive readymade methods of earning their living.

Even in some rural areas, practicing agriculture is now the practice of past and obsolete. In the absence of housing policy, the state has witnessed unplanned growth of residential and commercial establishments. As per official data, Jammu & Kashmir had 8.47 lakh hectares of agricultural land in 2005-06 which has shrunk to 7.94 lakh hectares till 2015-16.

This means the loss in a decade is estimated 53,000-hectare farmland (equivalent to 10,60,000 kanals) which has been converted for non-agricultural activities across the state. Jammu & Kashmir’s economic survey has painted a very grim picture of state’s dependence on outside supplies to meet its food requirements.

The local production of food grains in the state does not keep pace with the requirements, as the agriculture sector faces challenges on various fronts. Moreover, the scope for increasing the net area sown is very limited and the landholding is shrinking due to the continuous breakdown of joint family system, growing urbanization and population explosions as reads the state’s economic survey report 2016. 

Taking this very grim picture of state agricultural sector into consideration, it is imperative for the state dispensation as well as common masses, to thoroughly have a relook and put a policy in place and implement it abinitio, so that unabated conversion can be put to restraint.

Otherwise, if not stopped early or lately, the eco-fragility and eco-sustainability of the state will be grossly affected and will reflect into depletion of agrarian resources and disturbance of eco-balance of state. 

The author is currently working at CSIR IIIM Jammu as DST INSPIRE Fellow