The construction of hotels, shopping malls and residential houses on agricultural land is unabated in Kashmir in absence of any monitoring body to keep check on conversion of agricultural land. Despite several laws being in place, the state government has failed to stop the conversion of agricultural land into commercial and residential purposes. As per Agriculture department figures, two lakh kanals of agriculture land of the net sown or cultivated area of 3.5 lakh hectare has been converted for commercial and other purposes in Kashmir over the years. Official sources said the conversion of agricultural land was going unabated in Jammu and Kashmir due to failure of the government in curbing on it. The provisions of J&K Land Revenue Act 1996 prohibit the conversion of paddy or vegetable land into any other use. Besides violation of laws, the construction of residential and commercial buildings on agricultural land is violation of the master plan. “The conversion of agricultural land into other purposes was done in connivance of officials who facilitate construction of houses, buildings and shops on the farming land over the years,” an official of Revenue Department told KNS. A high-level official committee constituted by the government in 2009 to report on master plan violations, had identified and compiled a comprehensive report of around 2500 illegal structures in the Srinagar city alone. “Most of these constructions were made on agricultural land by some politicians, businessmen and bureaucrats. Government succumbed to the pressure of these influential people and shelved the report without taking any action on it,” the official said. It has been seen most of the agricultural land has been converted into non-agricultural purposes on the outskirts of Srinagar and other rural areas of the Valley. The High Court had pulled up the state government several times and directed the authorities to ensure that no conversion of agricultural land is allowed for commercial, residential and industrial purposes. However, sources said the authorities had failed to follow the directions of the court. Agriculture is the prime source of the state income as around 70 percent of the population is directly or indirectly involved with it. The Economic Survey Report has also portrayed a grim picture of conversion of agricultural land, saying it is happening “at an alarming rate” and leading to further dependence of food on imports from outside the state. As per the report, the arable land in J&K has shrunk from 0.14 hectare per-person in 1981 to 0.08 hectare per-person in 2001 and further to 0.06 hectare per-person in 2012.
2015 Kashmir Despatch