Srinagar, Nov 16: For the last four years, 78,700 hectares of cultivable land has been converted to non-agricultural purposes in Kashmir.
Thanks to rapid urbanization, Kashmir is fast losing its agricultural land to non-agricultural purposes.
Agriculture Department data accessed by The Kashmir Monitor reveal that the valley had 4, 67,700-hectares of agriculture land in 2015 which has shrunk to 3, 89,000 hectares in 2018.
This indicates Kashmir has lost 78,700 hectares of agricultural land to non-agricultural purpose since 2015.
Data shows that the land under paddy cultivation in Kashmir region shrank from 1, 48,000 hectares in 2015 to 1, 40,000 in 2018.
Similarly, maize cultivation shrank from 100,000 hectares to 76,000 hectares over these years.
Accordingly, cultivation of pulses has declined from 14,600 hectares to 12,767 hectares. Oilseed cultivation also plummeted from 86,000 hectares to 81,000.
Large scale conversion of agricultural land into horticulture, unplanned construction including residential colonies, factories, brick kilns, shopping complexes and other commercial infrastructure have come across as prime reasons for the damage of agricultural land, officials said.
Environment lawyer, Nadim Qadri said there are several laws that prohibit illegal conversion of agricultural land into non-agricultural purposes, but the implementation is “poor”.
“For instance, Section 133-A of the J&K Land Revenue Act says: ‘No land growing Shali crops, vegetables or saffron Lullis can be put to any use other than the purposes mentioned above, without obtaining prior permission of the revenue minister or an officer duly authorized by him in this behalf is required for conversion of agriculture land’,” he said.
Similarly, Qadir said, Section 13 of the J&K Agrarian Reforms Act, 1976 also prevents the conversion of agriculture land. A high court judgment of 2013 also banned the conversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes, he added
A senior official at the Agricultural Department said the agricultural land is shrinking fast.
“People are also converting agricultural land into horticulture because it gives them good economic returns. To make matters worse, government seems keen on promoting horticulture sector only. However, there is no strong agricultural policy which can help save the agricultural land,” he said
Director of Agriculture, Kashmir, Altaf Aijaz Andrabi said: “The agriculture sector in Kashmir has huge export potential because the valley has seasonal advantage over Jammu region and parts of the country. Further, it will decrease dependency to some extent.”
Andrabi noted that the rapid land conversion has to stop else it will prove catastrophic to the existence of the people in the valley.
Ensure all eligible beneficiaries are covered under CSS: Kabra
Jammu, Dec 9: Principal Secretary Home, Shaleen Kabra, today exhorted upon the officers to spread awareness regarding various centrally sponsored schemes to ensure optimum coverage of eligible persons under the ambit of these pro-people programmes.
Kabra issued these instructions while addressing a meeting convened to discuss and chalk out strategies towards achieving cent percent coverage of beneficiaries under individual centric schemes.
Commissioner Secretary, Social Welfare Department, Manoj Kumar Dwivedi; Commissioner Secretary, Higher Education Department, Sarita Chauhan; Director General Social Welfare, Rehana Batool; Director Planning Social Welfare, Omera Shafaq and other concerned officers were present in the meeting. All the Deputy Commissioners attended the meeting through video conferencing.
Principal Secretary sought details about the status of various centrally sponsored schemes being implemented in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and directed the officers to ensure that all eligible beneficiaries avail scholarships and other benefits. He emphasized the need for creating massive awareness about these schemes so that all eligible are benefited.
Other points which were discussed in the meeting included 100% pension coverage to physically challenged persons and senior citizens above 70 years of age besides implementation of Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana for pregnant women.
Mubeen’s detention order revoked permanently
New Delhi, Dec 9: Two days after he was released “temporarily”, the Jammu and Kashmir administration informed the Supreme Court on Monday that it had permanently revoked the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) against NRI businessman Mubeen Shah, who had been picked by authorities in Kashmir in August.
Shah was released on Saturday from the Agra Central Jail where he had been moved to on August 7 after being detained in Kashmir Valley, along with a host of political leaders, social activists and separatists following the Centre”s announcements related to Jammu and Kashmir.
The release of Shah on Saturday was “temporary” and he was asked to surrender on March 7 next year, according to an order issued by Principal Home Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir.
However, on Sunday, the same officer issued another order, submitted before the Supreme Court, saying that the PSA had been revoked under section 19 (1) of the Act and the fresh order superseded its order of December 6.
Under this Act, the government may at any time revoke or modify the detention order against any individual.
“In exercise of the powers conferred under section 19 (1) of the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978, the government hereby in supersession of government order…dated December 6, revokes the detention order…dated August 7, 2019…,” the order said.
A bench of Justices N V Ramana, R Subhash Reddy and B R Gavai allowed the withdrawal of a plea challenging the August 7 order after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the union territory, said the PSA has been permanently revoked.
The top court was hearing a plea filed by Asifa Mubeen, the wife of Mubeen Shah, seeking quashing of the August 7 order of detention along with the grounds of detention under section 8(1)(a) of the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978.
The counsel appearing for Asifa said they would like to withdraw the plea as it has become infructuous. The bench then allowed the plea to be withdrawn.
“Once the Solicitor General submitted the order of complete revocation of PSA against my client, the petition was disposed off,” Shah”s counsel Shariq J Reyaz told PTI after the hearing.
Shah is among the host of politicians, social activists and businessmen detained after August 5, when the Centre announced its decisions to withdraw special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution and divide the state into two union territories — Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.
He is possibly the first person charged under the controversial PSA to have been released by the union territory administration without any such directions from the court.
Shah figured during the US Congress hearing on South Asia human rights, focused on India”s action in Kashmir last month when Indian-American Democratic lawmaker from Washington”s 7th Congressional district Pramila Jayapal raised the issue about his detention.
“One of the individuals detained without charges is Dr Mubeen Shah, who is the uncle of my constituents in Seattle…this is former CEO of chamber of commerce. His urologist who is affiliated with Registrar General of Hospital has called for his immediate release because of serious medical issues.”
Assuring Jayapal, the US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice G Wells replied that America had taken up the issue of Shah with the Indian government.
“Yes, we explicitly raised the case of Dr Shah and shared your concern about the grounds for detention particularly given the health condition. We have received a response that he is receiving medication,” she said.
Based out of Malaysia, where he runs his handicrafts business, Shah used to visit Kashmir once in a year. Earlier, he was president of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He had come to Kashmir in May this year from Malaysia for a short duration but had to extend it due to a bereavement in his family and later due to infection for which he was undergoing treatment in a Srinagar hospital.
Restore rights of Kashmiris: Chidambaram after release
New Delhi, Dec 5: Breathing the air of freedom after 106 days made him first think about the 75 lakh people of the Kashmir valley, former finance minister P Chidambaram said on Thursday, a day after he was released from Tihar jail.
“As I stepped out and breathed the air of freedom at 8pm last night, my first thought and prayers were for the 75 lakh people of the Kashmir valley who have been denied their basic freedoms since August 5, 2019,” the Congress leader said at a press conference, his first after the Supreme Court granted him bail in the INX media case.
Quoting late South African president Nelson Mandela, Chidambaram said “freedom is indivisible” as he called for the restoration of the rights of Kashmiris, who have been placed under severe restrictions for over four months now.
The famous Mandela quote from his autobiography was based on his belief that once freedom of anyone is restricted, it can start an irreversible decline that is difficult to stop.
“If we must preserve our freedom, we must fight for their freedom,” said Chidambaram in lines that again recalled Mandela’s fight for liberty of all.
The 74-year-old also expressed concern for the political leaders of Kashmir, who he said have been detained without charges. “If the government allows me, I will definitely visit Jammu and Kashmir,” he added.
Almost the entire mainstream political class of Kashmir, including former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, with whose Peoples Democratic Party the BJP had at one time formed government in Jammu and Kashmir, are still under arrest.
The government had placed the Valley under a security lockdown as it moved to revoke the special constitutional status of the Muslim-majority region on August 5 by deploying thousands of additional troops and imposing a communication blackout.
While some restrictions have since been lifted, several still remain, including the blackout on internet services.
The government maintains these detentions and restrictions are necessary to prevent trouble makers from fanning tensions. The Congress party, along with others in the opposition, has raised the issue of the prolonged clampdown on rights during the Parliament session, but the government insists that this situation is normal.