Every year, hundreds of kanals of agricultural land in Kashmir turns into apple orchards leading to shrinking of the former. It has now become a trend in Kashmir for a decade or so. The practice has caught such a lightening speed which seems difficult to slow down now, except if a better sense prevails upon the people. Given the fact that, rice is the staple food of Kashmiris, the practice may end up with inadequate rice production in future, which means further dependence on the other side of the tunnel.
By growing apples, people may make lots of bucks but money can't buy you a thing which is scarce particularly, when it comes to Kashmir where the situation usually remains tense. The events of 2008, 2010, 2016 should not fade away from our memory. In a conflict-driven zone like ours, connectivity with the outside world may disrupt for an indefinite period of time and money might not come to rescue at that time but the food in store may, because it will at least satisfy our basic need.
Today one can witness long queues at the Ration ghats which tells the whole story and explains in a loud voice our state of dependence. I have seen such people having only few kanals of land, converting them into apple orchards and prefer to procure rice from the ration ghats. The people are very much insensitive towards the issue. They can't foresee the repercussions. A serious thinking is required, farsightedness should be exercised before taking any such step.
Another practice which adds to the problem is rapid construction of residential houses on agricultural land. The villages around cities/towns are worst hit by this practice. There is barely any agricultural land left in the villages particularly, nearby cities. Almost 80% of agricultural land has been converted into residential houses. The well-to-do people either living in cities/towns or in far-flung areas purchase these lands on high costs as the former prefer to live away from the hustle and bustle attached with the city/town life and the latter move for availing various facilities and conveniences available in the cities and towns. As a result, large colonies have came into existence on these farmlands leading to food(rice) dependence.
The government of Jammu and Kashmir should take cognizance of this act and the laws which are already in place for controlling this menace should be implemented in letter and spirit. That alone can save our future generations from the food crisis.
(Fayaz Ahmad Bhat is a teacher)