Srinagar, Apr 11: The Kashmir region has witnessed a steady conversion of wetland, farmland into non-agricultural use over the past three decades.
About 20% of agricultural land are said to be converted for commercial or residential purposes in last few years.
The experts believe that Agriculture and wetland in entire state is shrinking at an alarming rate, particularly in and around Srinagar, Baramullah, Sopore, Anantnag and other main towns of the region. “The state government continues to be a mere spectator to the onslaught of urbanization. Though there are a multiple reasons for this trend, the decrease is mainly attributed to diversion of cultivable land for non-agricultural purposes, including construction, industries and other development activities,” they said.
According to the government data available with KNS about 80% of people engaged in agriculture are in the rural areas of the state and their sole means of livelihood is farming. “If the trend continues for another 10 years, the state could see a major food crisis,” one of the former Horticultural officer told KNS.
The trend of losing farmland to urbanization has left farmers worried. The real estate boom around major towns will lead to a devastating food crisis in the state in coming years. If land is to be used for anything other than agriculture, government’s permission must be sought. However, most of our politicians are hand-in-glove with these builders. It’s they who determine the use of land, resulting in the mushrooming of construction on agricultural lands,” alleged the social activists.
He said that the large paddy fields separating the towns from the nearby villages are now the sites of multi-storied commercial complexes, shopping malls, schools, service centres and residential colonies. This has had a direct effect on agricultural productivity in the region.
According to Jammu and Kashmir Economic Survey report 2014-15, the estimated contribution of agriculture to State Gross Domestic Product (GSDP) has fallen from 28% in 2004-5 to 17%. The shortfall in food grains, which was 32% in 1950-51, is now 82 %.
The survey goes on to note that, while 70% of the population depends directly or indirectly on agriculture, the proportion of the labour force engaged in agriculture has declined from 85% in 1961, to 28% today. Farmers have not found other work in kashmir, due to the absence of a viable industrial and service sector.
Another social activist said that the lack of industry or service sector and rapid urbanization in Kashmir are linked due to the conflict of the last two and a half decades. “Due to militancy and counter-insurgency operations, the rural areas which were the most unsafe were left by the residents who fled to bigger cities, principally Srinagar, for safety. According to 2014-15 J&K economic survey, the largest urban area is in Srinagar district, where 98.6% of people live in urban areas, followed by Jammu district with 50%. In 2011. A London based-based City Mayors Foundation came out with a ranking of the fastest growing urban areas in the world, and Srinagar ranked 92 out of the top 300 such urban areas,” he maintained.
It is been seen that the residential colonies have come up in the low-lying flood plains of Kandizaal, Soitang, Padshahi Bagh, Kursoo, and further downstream on the Jhelum River in the Kashmir valley. These areas used to be the flood basin of Jhelum and their filling up contributed to unprecedented flooding in September 2014.
The observers believe that unfortunately the laws have often been violated by the government itself. Across Bemina the state government has constructed colleges, offices and even the Srinagar Development Authority on marshy land that once acted as the city’s flood basin.
Meets Pak PM in Davos: Trump again offers to ‘help’ resolve Kashmir
Davos, Jan 22: President Donald Trump has said that the US is watching the developments between India and Pakistan over Kashmir “very closely” and repeated his offer to “help” resolve the dispute between the two neighbors during his meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan here.
Addressing the media with Khan prior to their private meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum here on Tuesday, President Trump asserted that trade and borders were both critical points for discussion, while Khan said that for him, Afghanistan was the top priority.
Trump told Khan, whom he referred to as “my friend”, that he would speak to Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the ongoing Kashmir issue. The US president is expected to visit India in the coming weeks, marking his first visit after taking up his post in the White House. “What’s going on between Pakistan and India… if we can help, we certainly will be willing to. We have been watching it very closely and it’s an honor to be here with my friend,” Trump said.
“The Pakistan-India conflict is a very big issue for us in Pakistan and we expect the US to always play its part in deescalating the tensions because no other country can,” Khan said. President Trump has repeatedly offered to mediate following India’s August 5 decision to revoke the special status to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcate the state into two Union Territories, evoking strong reactions from Pakistan which has been trying to internationalize the issue.
New Delhi has defended its move, saying Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and the issue was strictly internal to the country, and the special status provisions only gave rise to terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. “The country took the decision of abrogation of Article 370, which had only given separatism and terrorism to that state,” Prime Minister Modi said in October.
Although President Trump has offered to mediate on the Kashmir issue in the past, New Delhi has told Washington that it is a bilateral matter between India and Pakistan and there is no scope for any third-party mediation. On the sidelines of the G7 summit in the French town of Biarritz in August last, Prime Minister Modi, while interacting with the media alongside President Trump, categorically rejected any scope for third party mediation between India and Pakistan on Kashmir, saying the two countries can resolve all issues bilaterally and “we don’t want to trouble any third country”.
This was the third meeting between Trump and Khan since Pakistan premier assumed office in 2018, and it came against the backdrop of Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s recent trip to the US, amid reports that the US and Afghan Taliban were close to striking a peace deal. “There are issues we want to talk about. The main issue is Afghanistan because it concerns the US and Pakistan. Fortunately, we are on the same page. Both of us are interested in peace there and an orderly transition in Afghanistan with talks with Taliban and the government,” Khan said.
When a reporter asked Trump if he would visit Pakistan considering he was already set to visit India, the US president evaded a direct answer and said he was meeting the Pakistan premier in Davos. “Well, we’re visiting right now. So we don’t really have to. I wanted to say that from a relationship standpoint, we got a great relationship. From the standpoint of our two countries, we’re getting along very well. I would say we’ve never been closer to Pakistan the way we’re right now. And this is a big statement,” Trump said.
However, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Wednesday that President Trump has assured Prime Minister Khan that he would visit Pakistan soon. Several “important issues” were discussed in the hour-long “productive” meeting between the two leaders, Qureshi was quoted as saying by Dawn.
The foreign minister said he was also present during the meeting, which was attended by Trump’s “entire team”. Qureshi said President Trump was also briefed on the measures taken by Pakistan to get off the Financial Action Task Force’s grey list. Pakistan also asked for US support on the matter, he added.
Khan left for Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum and on Tuesday. The four-day summit which kicked off on Tuesday marks the 50th anniversary of the forum. A total of 53 heads of State are on the guest list. Nearly 3,000 participants from 118 countries are expected to attend the event during which political leaders, business executives, heads of international organizations and civil society representatives are set to deliberate on contemporary economic, geopolitical, social and environmental issues.
‘No scope for third-party mediation’
New Delhi, Jan 22: There is no role for any third-party intervention on the issue of Kashmir, government sources said a day after US President Donald Trump’s fresh offer to “help” India and Pakistan resolve the lingering dispute.
New Delhi’s long-held position has been that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan and there is no question of any mediation or intervention by any third party.
Speaking to reporters with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in Davos on Tuesday, Trump said the US was watching the developments relating to Kashmir “very closely” and repeated his offer to “help” resolve the dispute.
It was Trump’s fourth offer in last five months to help both the countries resolve the Kashmir issue after India withdrew the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the state into two union territories.
“What’s going on between Pakistan and India if we can help, we certainly will be willing to. We have been watching it very closely,” Trump said.
Official sources said India’s clear and consistent position has been that there is no role to play for any third party on Kashmir.
Trump is expected to visit India in the second half of February.
It is learnt that India had communicated to Washington after Trump’s offer to mediate on Kashmir last year that it is a bilateral matter with Pakistan. (PTI)
Adv Bhatnagar calls for judicious use of water throughout JK
Srinagar, Jan 16: Advisor to Lieutenant Governor, Rajeev Rai Bhatnagar released the annual calendar 2020 of Departments of Public Health Engineering and Irrigation & Flood Control here today.
The Advisor released the calendar in the presence of Commissioner Secretary PHE, I&FC Ajit Kumar Sahu and other concerned officers.
The main theme of the calendar is to highlight the water conservation measures in the households while using water for daily use.
On the occasion, the Advisor complimented the Departments for bringing out the calendar on such a theme which is an essential part of everyone’s daily life.
The Advisor exhorted upon the concerned to focus mainly on educational institutions and public places like bus stops and railway stations besides other utilities while distributing the calendars to further its message.
He also impressed upon the officers to launch a massive awareness campaign for judicious use of water and conservation techniques throughout Jammu and Kashmir.
DSP arrest: CISF given control of Srinagar, Jammu airports
New Delhi, Jan 16: Airports in Srinagar and Jammu are to be “immediately” brought under the security cover of the CISF in view of the arrest of DSP Davinder Singh, a Jammu and Kashmir government order has said. The two sensitive airports are to be “handed over” to the CISF by January 31, the order of the Jammu and Kashmir Home Department to the Director General of Police (DGP) said.
“This issue (CISF security at Srinagar and Jammu airports) has acquired immediacy in view of the recent developments relating to the arrest of Davinder Singh, DSP airport security, for trying to assist militants to travel to other parts of the country,” the order issued on Wednesday said. Police had arrested Singh, a deputy superintendent of police, at Mir Bazar in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kulgam district on Saturday, along with Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists Naveed Baba and Altaf, besides a lawyer who was operating as an overground worker for terror outfits.
The two airports are guarded by the CRPF and the J-K Police at present. The Union government had last year decided that the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) will be handed over security of these two airports along with the one in Leh in view of their sensitive and strategic location and the threats it faced related to possible terrorist and hijack attempts.
CISF is the national civil aviation security force and at present it guards 61 airports including the ones at Delhi and Mumbai. PTI had on January 13 reported that the Union home ministry sanctioned about 800 personnel to the CISF in order to take over security duties at the three airports of the newly created Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
As per the original plan, the CISF was to take over Jammu airport by next month and the Srinagar and Leh airports after the spell of severe cold ends. However, officials said, keeping in mind the arrest of the DSP and his alleged links, the latest order has been issued which also directs the J-K Police to make arrangements for accommodation, transport and other logistical requirements of the armed contingent of the CISF on a quick basis.
Once inducted at the most-sensitive Srinagar airport, the CISF will secure access control at both city and air side (tarmac area) while the CRPF will be responsible for securing the outer periphery. At the Jammu airport, the peripheral security duties will be rendered by the JK Police.
An assortment of surveillance and security gadgets like CCTVs, observation monitors, hand-held metal detectors, bullet-proof patrol vehicles and bomb detection and disposal equipment are also being provided by the airport operator, the Airports Authority of India (AAI), to the CISF. The Union government sometime back made it clear that CISF will be the only civil airports guarding force and all such facilities in the country will be gradually brought under its command to bolster aviation security and tighten anti-terror and anti-hijack protocols.