‘1.5 lac hectares agri land converted into horticulture’
By: Sameer Lone
Srinagar: Once popularly termed as the rice bowl of Kashmir, the twin districts of Pulwama and Kulgam have lost a huge chunk of fertile agricultural land to other activities mostly constructions and horticulture.
According to the official data, Kashmir has lost 3.5 lakh hectares of land that could have been used for rice cultivation. 1.5 lakh hectares was a pure agricultural land which over the years got converted mostly into horticulture.
Agricultural experts at Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Science and Technology (SKUAST) say that over the last two decades the agriculture sector has shrunk manifold. They hold the successive governments responsible for it saying the “bogus and anti-farmer policies” have destroyed this vital sector.
Not long ago, people in rural Kashmir were self-sufficient in rice production, but now even in once rice rich districts like Pulwama, Kulgam, Ganderbal, people depend upon the subsidized ration that is sent to J&K from other states.
Experts term it a serious matter of concern.
According to the official figures, 60 percent of land which can be used for agricultural purposes lies vacant as the government has failed to provide irrigation in these areas. “If this land is irrigated and made cultivable, it will produce a huge quantity of rice,” said a retired Director Agriculture Department.
Kulgam and Pulwama districts, once known as the “rice bowls of Kashmir” have lost agricultural land at a very fast pace. In these areas some 60 percent of the agricultural land has either come under constructions or got converted into horticulture.
“The people living in these areas are now dependent on the ration provided by the government. It is a matter of concern. Our rice bowls no longer remained the rice bowls. We have lost agricultural land. Our self-production doesn’t even contribute two percent of the needs,” say the experts at SKUAST.
Ghulam Ahmed, who headed J&K Kissan Tehreek Movement, says there are several reasons that compel a farmer to turn agricultural land into horticulture.
“There are no policies for the agriculture sector. The fertilizers rates have surged high. The agricultural cultivation is not profitable. People have no other option, “he said, adding, there is no public investment in the agriculture sector.
In states like Punjab, the government is very much focused on the agricultural sector. “But sadly, in our state, the government has utterly failed. It is a wakeup call for us. We will not eat apples in place of rice. Why is horticulture becoming a priority sector over agriculture,” he said.