Kashmir has attracted travelers and invaders alike for the fascination it meant for them. These strangers plundered every thing but did not disrupt Kashmir’s ambiance and disrespect its ecology. But the fragile eco-system of this heavenly beautiful place suffered a lot at the hands of its inhabitants, particularly during last many decades. Almost every water way and water body within the plains of the valley has either been encroached upon or polluted; forests denuded of their cover and precious flora made extinct due to endless greed of people. Same is the case with our cultivable land which has suffered to a great extent. Major part of our landscape is tattered because of heartless meddling by mankind. Presently, no proper land-use policy is in practice and almost every stretch of land is pockmarked and disfigured.
Every soul on this land is aware of this destruction but the materialism and greed have blinded us to the extent that we are unable to foresee the arriving ecological disaster and obliteration of human race. This tragic scenario of degeneration and disappearance of fertile cultivable land and death of water sources will leave no scope for production of food and other needs, necessary for our survival. Chaotic situation will lead to anarchy and ultimately our destruction! Apparently all these estimations seem hypothetical, but gradual degradation of ecosystem by brutal interventions of mankind and its very noticeable effects on quantum and quality of agro based production and environment over the period of time is an indication of looming disaster on this front. The imminent disaster will be many faceted with prominent faces of starvation and suffocation.
Present state government has come out of deep slumber and is contemplating some serious legal interventions to curb encroachment and degradation of water bodies and cultivable land. While pursuing one such proposal leading newspapers of the valley carried advertisements floated by law department, seeking suggestions from individuals and the institutions regarding review of existing land-use laws; making them more effective and strict to make the law implementing agencies accountable. Government has accepted that proper land-use laws are already in place but on ground their implementation is nil. And we all know that a state land-use board (SLUB) headed by a major head of the department from state agriculture services exists within the premises of civil secretariat. This board is non functional for last many years and has become a dumping ground for undesired officers. There are enough provisions in existing laws regarding restriction of converting agriculture land for non-agriculture purposes but if a credible commission is constituted to investigate violations on this part since 1947, the facts will reveal doctored records, where a vast area of grade one cultivable land has been shown as ‘Banjre kadeem’ (barren since long) for ulterior reasons. Unscrupulous revenue officials in collaboration with land mafia, over the period of time have not only changed the land-use status but also the title of vast area of state land.
Water bodies have been encroached upon both by the government agencies and public during last six decades. Encroachment on Doodh ganga, from Baghi Nand Singh in the vicinity of Noor Bagh up to Solina, unworkable filling of Nalla Maar; organized and induced death of Anchar lake and Brari-nambal lagoon and many bird sanctuaries in the valley are some glaring examples of violations. Instead of planned use of land for genuine needs of housing and other requirements, land mafia got all sort of patronage to grab land and develop unplanned habitations on the outskirts of Srinagar and many other places in the valley. Beyond Hayderpora village on both sides of the new airport road and along the Jhelum valley road land mafia has not only eaten up the cultivable land but annihilated many water bodies that would accommodate extra water at times of flash floods and help in recharging the ground water. Land within the Bemina estate along with the rakhs in the vicinity vanished due to materialistic intrusion. Filling of Rakhe Arath for rehabilitation of Dal dwellers can momentarily be a good idea but in the long run it will prove detrimental and complete violation of justified land-use policy. Do the authorities know that by depriving Kamas (tillers) of rakhe Arath of their age old rights of tilling, how many families have been robed of their occupation? Same practice will be repeated at rakhe Tulmula while paving way for proposed central university. These kamas have been tilling these lands for centuries and would help the state in many ways; generating income for themselves and adding to much needed agriculture produce.
Proper utilization of land and making cultivation of land mandatory was strictly adapted during Maharaja’s rule. Agriculture authorities at that time had divided land in many zones for seed production and other agro based activities; different crops for seed purpose and food production were cultivated in different zones. Conversion of paddy land into orchards was a distant dream during that time, but afterwards, popular governments not only encouraged conversion but at places constructed industrial estates and other hazardous government establishment on cultivable land. To keep his economic activities going Maharaja would ensure that no land is left barren and compulsory tilling of land was almost a law. After independence this obligation on part of cultivators was given least consideration both by the farmers and the state.
Kashmir’s economy prior to 1947 was exclusively influenced and governed by agro based activities with some fractional contribution from tourism and handicrafts sector. Even with this limited scope of economical activities the Maharaja could run the affairs of the state, public welfare schemes and above all afford his royalty and much dearer extravagance. It is true that autocracy at that time was ruthless and would deal with his subjects (mainly tillers) with iron hand and rob them of major part of their produce through his cronies, and local agents (zaildars). But his revenue and land-use agencies were well established to prevent any land conversion or miss use; his established department of agriculture and allied activities were well managed by the best agriculture experts available within the domain of English government.
After 1947 a new era of people’s governance did influence every aspect of our life and people became masters of their land. This historic and revolutionary step in real sense emancipated majority of people in this land of exploitation and desperation. People, who were once sold as cattle against a consideration became liberated overnight but with the passage of time they misunderstood liberation and became sluggish, careless and spoiled their beautiful land.