THE ONLY MANTRA TO PURSUE THIS AGENDA IS HONESTY, IMPARTIALITY AND SINCERITY, FIDA IQBAL COMMENTS ON AGRICULTURE SECTOR IN KASHMIR
Every time I indulge in witting and talking about subject matter of Agriculture, it reminds me of my first lesson of Agriculture science — ‘Eighty percent of Indian population live in rural India and most of this population is directly or indirectly associated with cultivation and its allied sectors, deriving their livelihood and source of sustenance for the nation’. Jammu and Kashmir is an agrarian state with dominance of agriculture in every aspect of life. Unfortunately, when we refer to ‘Agriculture sector’ in Kashmir, it is seen as nothing beyond cultivation of few staple crops of very less economical importance. In fact, agriculture by all means and standards is an activity of enormous scope with a vast area of diverse economic and scientific procedures. Survival and political independence of mankind are directly related to self-reliance and agriculture is the most vital facet of total self-sufficiency. Materialistic world out of its huge factories can provide us everything short of food. Food can only be grown out of mother earth after toiling hard and putting our sweat and blood into it. History stands witness to a lot of incidents where nations were overpowered for want of food. To achieve self-sufficiency in food, prioritization of farming sector and its complete growth becomes imperative. In Kashmir land is not a constraint, enough cultivable land is available and scope for land reclamation is ample.
Farming as basis of sustenance for natives and source of revenue for government since centuries is very well documented in our recorded history of several thousand years. Until 1947, Agriculture was major source of revenue with our autocratic rulers and efficiency of their wealth and monetary arrangements remained exclusively hinged to agriculture activity. In Jammu and Kashmir, on 13th of July 1950, revolutionary declaration of ‘land to tiller’ liberated a huge population of exploited tillers from bonded-labour and slavery; opening a new chapter of farming with sense of possession, contentment and contribution in nation building. But, this euphoria did not last long. In epoch-making hours of emancipation and empowerment, while enacting this radical law of fairness, our leaders overlooked the fact of consolidation of fragmented land holdings. Cooperative movement was given a try in later years but that ended in politicization of otherwise splendid institution of cooperatives. During the last six decades even after introducing modern farming techniques, latest implements and quality inputs under the supervision of highly qualified technocrats and scientists, agriculture segment of Kashmir has not grow proportionately. Surprisingly, for last many decades size of imports of agricultural products in Kashmir has grown considerably, shifting our status from fairly self-reliant state to most dependent population. For arguments sake we can justify swell in imports under the garb of increased population, and changing living standards. But slow and disproportionate pace of growth in our agriculture production is noticeable. This phenomenon of inconsistency in growth of farming sector speaks volumes about failure of our planning and priorities in agriculture segment. Degradation in otherwise vibrant and sustaining farming sector of Kashmir has been gradual, particularly during last three decades. Several reasons and factors are to be blame for this fall in quality and quantity of our agro based activities. These facets of collapse are largely outcome of human greed and mankind’s intervention in the nature’s system of coexistence, interdependence and synchronized arrangement of life. Meddling with natural profile of land and mankind’s materialistic land use policy is the foremost reason of appalling conditions of agriculture sector in many parts of the world and Kashmir is part of this vandalism. Other flaws in our planning and priorities also play a role in derailing agriculture sector in Kashmir.
Even after reclaiming much of our waste land, increase in irrigated area by many folds, we could not contain the epidemic of disorganized change in title and shape of land and diversification of fertile cultivable land for purposes other than cultivation has led to decline in area of cultivable land, leading to stress on every kind and form of land. Taking cognizance of shrinking lands and degrading soils, many years back state government had framed ‘State Land Use Board’ (SLUB) to ensure proper utilization of land, exclusively for agricultural purposes. Unfortunately, ‘SLUB’ could not move out of the administrative wrangles and ended in the dingy basements of civil secretariat as dumping ground for un-welcome officers. During past three decades in particular, whole landscape of Kashmir valley has changed by human greed and intervention in league with powerful land mafia and active patronage of political masters. Grade one irrigated and fertile cultivable paddy land (Abi Awal) was declared barren (Banjar Kadeem) just with the stroke of a pen by corrupt revenue officials at the behest of their selfish clients and acquisitive masters. The abusive use of land lead to collapse of natural irrigation system and drainage patterns, ultimately leading to confused state of floods and drought. The earlier zoning norms of Agricultural land on the basis of soil condition, fertility, irrigation, drainage and other factors has been floated in almost all parts of the valley. The wanton cultivation pattern of crops and other agricultural activities has lead to a situation of bewilderment making farmers to suffer with low yields and degraded produce. Agriculture, particularly the crop husbandry is no more considered a viable venture by our farming community. Lack of hassle free working capital, inferior seeds and counterfeit inputs push farmers to debit trap and web of unscrupulous traders. Agricultural activities are time bond and any delay in procurement and supply of inputs can have far-reaching consequences, not only for the farmers but the nation as a whole. In fact, in present circumstances much of traditional farming community prefers to part ways with their holdings and tries their luck in some other lucrative enterprise devoid of any harassment. State is duty bond to create an ambiance where agriculture venture is made profitable and economically viable; encouraging people not only to adapt it as a source of living but as a complete business. Kashmiris need to rise to the occasion and save themselves from the demon of starvation, economic salivary, ultimately leading to subjugation. This can be attained by prioritizing agriculture sector with outright patronization; devising of long term policies and planning and providing dedicated leadership. Because of diverse climatic conditions and serene environs importance of horticulture, floriculture and vegetable cultivation in crop growing scenario of Kashmir can not be overlooked. Term ‘commercial agriculture’ got incorporated in lingual lexicon of Kashmir because of horticulture. Horticulture is the success story of our farming but disproportionate growth is the most negative attribute appended to this sector and the reasons are same; mismanagement of land, unchecked spurious inputs and lack of working capital. Vegetables and vegetable seed production is another essential area along with floriculture and medicinal plant cultivation which can be declared as thrust area for revival of agriculture sector in Kashmir.
Human race can not deny the laws of nature and go against the nature’s devised mechanism for survival and sustenance. Human beings should explore nature in a symbiotic manner with highest regard for laws of natural world. Agriculture sector in Kashmir has a vast potential to provide us with food, economic stability in league with other vibrant economic activities and above all can help us in safeguarding our political independence. The only ‘mantra’ to pursue this agenda is honesty, Impartiality and sincerity.