Dip in agriculture land holding from 0.62 hectares to 0.59 hectares per person, conversion of estimated 78 thousand hectares of farm land for non-agricultural purposes in Kashmir from 2015 to 2019 should act as an eye-opener to the government and policy makers as the newly carved Union Territory with each passing day is becoming more and more dependent on outside supplies.
According to the census report by Union Agriculture Ministry average size of holding has shrunk from 0.62 hectares (ha) per person to 0.59 ha, from 2011 to 2016.
The official data also points out to the fact that agriculture land in Kashmir is shrinking. According to the data, Kashmir had 4, 67,700-hectares of agricultural land in 2015 which has shrunk to 3, 89,000 hectares in 2019 . Kashmir has lost 78,700 hectares of agricultural land to non-agricultural purposes since 2015.
Data shows that the land under paddy cultivation in Kashmir region shrank from 1, 48,000 hectares in 2015 to 1, 40,000 in 2018.
Similarly, maize cultivation shrank from 100,000 hectares to 76,000 hectares over these years.
Accordingly, cultivation of pulses has declined from 14,600 hectares to 12,767 hectares. Oilseed cultivation also plummeted from 86,000 hectares to 81,000.
Director Agriculture Kashmir, Altaf Aijaz Andrabi while speaking in a function today also pointed out that large scale conversion of agricultural land into non agricultural use shall create an imbalance in the agricultural ecosystem as the change in land pattern would be the greatest concern to our food security and economic sustainability.
Andrabi while inaugurating day long workshop on land conversion for non agricultural use – its catastrophic effect on our sustenance which was organised by the Joint Directorate of Agriculture Extension Kashmir, said "change in land use pattern has arguably been the most pervasive socio economic force which has caused imbalance in the eco system. Cessation of this pattern is a critical element in achieving long term economic growth and sustainable development of the society as a whole but the land use policy has to be designed in a way that it should strike a balance between private proprietary right and public interest."
As per an official report, the arable land in J&K has shrunk from 0.14 hectare per-person in 1981 to 0.08 hectare per-person in 2001 and further to 0.06 hectare per-person in 2012.
"Factors like small holdings create problems in farm mechanization operations and make farming non-remunerative. Apart from population growth, the urbanization process leads to shrinkage in per capita arable land," the report says.
Experts cautioned that conversion of agricultural land was taking place in both rural and urban Kashmir, raising alarm bells.
In 2011, the Government had set up a committee under the chairmanship of then Horticulture Minister to frame a bill that would specifically address the issue of use of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes.
But the proposed legislation wasn't finalised allegedly owing to political pressure.
In April 2012, the J&K High Court had passed directions against misuse of agricultural land, on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by a non-governmental organization.
The Court had directed all Deputy Commissioners to ensure provisions of J&K Agrarian Act and J&K Land Revenue Act are implemented to stop conversion of agricultural land.