Agriculture, being the most diverse sector, is an important bridge between mankind and ecosystem. It provides the only reliable source of sustenance.
Pages of history are full of occasions where under most challenging situations agrarian economy proved to be the only support for distressed people. Beyond this agriculture is the mainstay of majority of population of most of the nations. India, rather the whole subcontinent mostly has agriculture driven economy where Agriculture contributes to GSDP (Gross State Domestic Product) significantly. Until mid-fifties of the last century even with the biggest limitation of single cropping season in maximum parts of Jammu and Kashmir, the farming and its allied sectors were the only source of economic activity with very little contribution from handicrafts and tourism sector.
Over the period of time several other sectors made inroads into our economic activity but on sustenance and food-security front Agriculture remained the dominating activity. It constitutes an important sector of the State economy and source of employment. Around 70 percent of the population of J&K derives its income directly or indirectly from this sector and 49 percent of the total work force of the State depends directly on Agriculture for their livelihood.
During the last decade the Agriculture share in GSDP has gone down considerably. With 17.49 percent in 20014-15 (economic survey 2014-15) the fall is quite significant as against 28.06 in 2004-05. An adverse pointer to our worsening food security scenario! The estimated annual growth rate of Agriculture and allied sectors at constant (2004-05) prices reveal a disturbing trend (Table 4 of chapter 2, of Jammu and Kashmir, Economic Survey, 2014-15 Volume-I). Table 1 of chapter 7 (Agriculture & Allied Sectors) of the same report is also discouraging, showing marginal decline in area under some crops and a decreasing trend of yield per unit in almost all major crops, thus reducing the overall production considerably. However, the survey rightly specifies some factors for the decline, including growth in population, low profitability, and lack of proper modern infrastructure, working capital and seed replacement.
However, at present the most prominent bottleneck in Agriculture development and overall agrarian production in Jammu and Kashmir are faulty land use and lack of consolidation of land. The relentless misuse and abuse of cultivable land for overenthusiastic materialistic pursuit for development, unplanned expansion and infrastructure development has occupied a sizeable part of our fertile, irrigated and cultivable land. In the absence of a clear land use policy and non-implementation of existing land use laws the situation has complicated further.
A much stronger political will to crush the land abusers and the land mafia along with revival of existing SLUB (state land use board) will help in reviving the Agriculture sector and making it the most prominent and viable economic activity and a major sustainable food security source.
Two existing prestigious projects of state Agriculture department will prove as important case study for impact of faulty land use on overall Agriculture development in Kashmir. The Saffron mission component in Pampore in Pulwama district and vegetable cluster at Narkara in Budgam district are well conceived Agriculture development projects for boosting commercial Agriculture.
But over a period of time the land within the two projects being in close vicinity of Srinagar city has been encroached and misused because of unplanned urbanization, thus eroding the long term viability of both the projects. The urbanization has not only shrunken the cultivable land but has adversely impacted the production capacity of the remaining part of land.
Much popular and revolutionary farmer friendly step of ' land to tiller' just after independence certainly strengthened the concept of democracy, but at the end of the day land got fragmented into smaller units creating hurdles for modern extensive Agriculture techniques and thus reducing production. Politicization and ultimate death of cooperative movement in the state killed the primary concept of consolidating these smaller land holdings under the umbrella of cooperatives.
The other bottlenecks like shortage of short term working capital, replacement of seed, infrastructure development and provision of modern mechanized farming equipment to farming sector can be managed more efficiently by proper administrative management and latest technical expertise.
Time has come, that for survival of mankind through food security mechanism, farming community as well as the political leadership has to take much larger revolutionary steps to ensure proper, efficient and profitable cultivation of land with clear concept of land use. The sooner it is done and achieved, the longer this nation will survive for the best of mankind.