Construction Empties Kashmir’s Rice Bowl

Kulgam district in Jammu & Kashmir loses its rice sfields. Kulgam district is known as the ‘rice bowl’ of Kashmir. Until recently, the rice fields of the region have fed the people of the state for whom rice is the staple food. “An average Kashmiri consumes rice atleast twice a day,” says Nadeem Andrabi, IndiaUnheard Community Correspondent, “I cannot conceive of Kashmiri cuisine in the absence of rice.” But off late, the state has run into a severe shortage of rice grain and it has been forced to import the surplus demand.  The primary reason for this trend, as Nadeem’s investigations revealed is the illegal appropriation of farmland for building and construction. “The government has passed a law that bans all construction on cultivable rice farms,” says Nadeem. “But when the government itself has been wantonly constructing schools and other structures on the land, why should the farmers listen? In the recent years, all sorts of structure from houses to petrol pumps to restaurants and hotels have come up on agricultural land.” The Agriculture department is now trying to reverse this trend by promoting crop rotation amongst the farmers. The hope is to get the farmers to conserve farmland by helping them yield higher economic benefits from farming. “For purposes of construction, there is enough uncultivable land in the neighbourhood,” says Nadeem, “Constructing on farmlands is not just adversely affecting the food production in the state but also killing of livelihoods. We are still a very agrarian state and this land is our greatest resource.”

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