Guarding the Green

Ever changing Agrarian sector of Kashmir!

Last week Department of Agriculture Kashmir approached and passed on a request to write an article for departmental magazine. Such an offer is a matter of honor, however depicting the real picture of this vital sector is a challenging task because of its ever changing scenario both on physical and economic front. Kashmir agrarian sector has a long history of economic importance and contribution to state economy. Even after 1947 like most parts of the subcontinent agriculture played a vital role in state’s economy. In 1950-51 as per estimates by Central Statistics Office (CSO) the share of agricultural products (Agriculture and Allied Sectors) in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of India was 51.9 per cent and Obviously, Agriculture scenario in the state of Jammu and Kashmir during this period was almost same as in rest of the country. With pampered patronizing of industry and service sectors, the share of agriculture and allied sectors in India’s GDP has now come down to 13.7 per cent in 2012-13. This discouraging trend shows that Agriculture sector in the region has miserably lost to industrialization. Agriculture sector has suffered a lot because of administrative indifference and lack of farmer’s interest in pursuing farming as full time profession. Presently being the most unorganized and least paying (cost benefit ratio analysis) Agriculture in almost all parts of the subcontinent is losing its importance as trade. However, because of diverse economic status of people more than fifty percent of population is directly or indirectly compelled to remain associated with agriculture activity and earn a living.

Outwardly glittering industrial and other allied sectors have completely overshadowed the agrarian economy both in value and content. During last more than four decades patronized by acquisitive lobbies within and outside the government, industrial sector has attracted more public and private investment. On the other hand Agriculture sector has not only been deprived of much required working capital and infrastructure funding but even the manpower has lost interest in agriculture activities because of it being least remunerative as compared to other occupations. Financial institutions and capital market governing and manipulating the present day economies has no substantial role in Agriculture promotion or sustenance. Meager micro financing and negligible infrastructure investment at lowest level of tilling and cultivation has left the whole farming community in lurch. Whatever minimum infrastructure development funding by institutions like NABARD (National Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development) and working capital arrangements like KCC (Kissan Credit Card)are either misused by the vested interests or get influenced by political interference.

Kashmir Agriculture sector over the period of time has witnessed a paradigm shift both in quality and quantity. Being the most vital activity of states economy and source of sustenance and survival for common people until late fifties of last century Agrarian activity in the state has been pushed to the back-burner. Even after considerable patronization by the successive state administrations Agrarian sector has changed for worst. Uncontrolled and unscientific land-use; floating of traditional agriculture zone patterns has severe effect on production and quality of agriculture produce. Earlier, particularly in Kashmir valley cultivators would religiously adhere to routine land cultivation patterns strictly within the designated areas (Zones) for each crop. Most of the areas on the basis of climatic condition, topography and soil structure and texture were earmarked for particular crop cultivation. Earlier land-use shifting was not only difficult but practically impossible. Erstwhile Anantnag District presently torn into many administrative districts was once considered rice bowl of Kashmir and would considerably contribute to food bank of the valley but presently due to excessive land-use abuse it has lost its standing. Disproportionate urbanization and unscientific shift to other crops has not only reduced the rice production but disturbed water management system and changed the soil profile of the area. Unorganized cropping patterns have encouraged pathological epidemics by creating congenial atmosphere and friendly hosts for pathogens. In other areas messing staple crops with secondary crops like horticulture, vegetables, fast growing timber and other cash crops has ruined the whole agriculture process. Same is the case with other areas in the valley.

Kashmir agriculture sector beyond liberal funding and scientific guidance requires proper and effective monitoring both scientific and administrative with effective deterrents against abusive and criminal land-use. Kashmir Agriculture produce once known for its unique taste and aroma requires patronage not pampering; it requires working capital not freebies and last but not the least it requires an honest, and sincere administration to steer the farmers out of self-imposed despair and recession.