Growing militancy is not the sole matter of concern for the residents of Kashmir but also the shrinking of agricultural land. The J&K Government has painted a grim picture of the state’s agriculture sector. Experts say that agricultural land in J&K has shrunk by over 3,40,000 hectares in the last four years. An agriculture department survey conducted last year reported that Kashmir is losing 228 kanals of agricultural land per day and if this trend goes on, there will be no land available for agriculture purposes by 2040. They maintained that the main reasons behind this is unplanned develop-mental projects and rapid urbanisation. Experts also stated that the diminishing economic returns of agriculture has disillusioned most people associated with the cultivation.
Economic returns have reduced due to the increased cost of inputs, farm machinery and lack of timely working capital and fluctuating market rates introduced by middlemen make agriculture the least paying occupation. Apart from using paddy land for commercial purposes and residential colonies, thousands of kanals of paddy land have been converted into orchards and plant nurseries. The reduction in agricultural land has alarmed the judiciary. In 2012, the J&K High Court passed a judgement against the misuse of farmland following a PIL filed by an NGO. The court directed all the deputy commissioners to ensure that the J&K Agrarian Act of the J&K Land Revenue Act is enforced to stop conversion of agricultural land, but the law is not being implemented at grassroots level.
“No rule is followed and nobody cares about it,” said Sarfaraz Ahmad Khan, a resident of south Kashmir Dado village. He added that the administration has so far failed to check the conversion of agricultural land to commercial ones, which will haven dangerous consequences in the near future. When contacted, the Agricultural Minister G.N. Hanjuri said that the state government is committed to save agricultural land and in this regard a comprehensive policy will be framed soon. He added that the people should cooperate with the government.