Economy, Agriculture and Kashmir

On Mercy Corps report about survival and empowerment.

Mercy Corps, a US-based Non Governmental Organization in its recent report has made interesting revelations regarding the economic health, crumbling infrastructure and unfair administration of prospective revenue generating segments in Kashmir. The optimistic side of the report is quite encouraging and unlocks vistas of prosperity and growth through agrarian economy, prominently the horticulture, its allied cash crops sectors and handicrafts. Mercy Corps is a global aid agency with projects on environmental protection, agricultural livelihoods and economic opportunity in Kashmir. The conclusions drawn by the agency regarding the sustainable economy of this landlocked valley are not new. However, the way they have put it with logic and reasoning is quite scientific and interesting.

We cannot challenge the intentions and motive of ‘Mercy Corps’ as its credibility world over is well established. Neither can we dispute their methodology for drawing conclusions in this matter as they seem to be very close to the age old sustainable economic concept of Kashmir. An economy governed by three most prominent sectors; Agriculture with its allied segments, handicrafts along with our unique culture and heritage and third the tourism with enough of natural landscape and beauty to showcase and sell. Of all these sectors, Agriculture with its allied segments is the most vibrant and if explored properly, can boost up economy of Kashmir. As Mercy Corps rightly say in its report, “Kashmir is mainly an agrarian-based economy. Agriculture and its allied sectors contribute 27 percent to the State’s GDP, with 70 percent population directly or indirectly relying on agriculture for their livelihoods,” it further conveys “Out of the total area under Horticulture in the state, 90 percent is concentrated in the Valley due to suitable climate. With annual turnover of 75 million US dollars, this sector is the biggest source of income in the state’s economy next to agriculture.” So collectively agriculture and horticulture are the main source of income and employment for people of Kashmir. These lines posses enough information for our planners and strategists with a clear message that, unless we don’t consider Agriculture as backbone of our sustainable economy, unemployment and many such other monsters will keep haunting us.

After abolition of autocracy then populist leader Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah enacted the much illustrious law, ‘land to the tiller’ in 1950 with a great deal of relief to overexploited peasantry of Kashmir. While passing this historic law the vindictive aspect of the law overpowered the cause of sustained economy, an ultimate bridge for survival and guaranteed empowerment and emancipation. The law ‘land to the tiller’ should have accompanied with a decree for compulsory cultivation of land, but under the euphoric influence of neo-independence the lawmakers lost the long term track of sustenance and survival. With the passage of time agriculture as an enterprise lost its charm, profitability and cultivators under the influence of newly acquired freedom and democracy abandoned their lands and rushed to lucrative greener pastures of service sector even at the cost of parting their holdings to unscrupulous elements. In recent interview to a local magazine, minister for Agriculture Jammu and Kashmir government, Mr. Ghulam Hassan Mir accepted this fact and rightly said, “We need to make agriculture sector more glamorous and lucrative so that youth take this activity with much interest.”

Kashmir politically, economically and socially is on cross roads, entangled in the web of unemployment, class war and social injustice. To come out of these void tunnels, Kashmir requires a revived vibrant economic setup with piers of self-sufficiency and sustainability. Agriculture along with tourism and our crafts are the ultimate sectors that can revitalize our economy, but not that medieval agriculture, politicised tourism and exploited craft sector.

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