Greater Kashmir: Srinagar: Tuesday, March 28, 2017.
Despite several laws being in place, there is no end to conversion of agriculture land into commercial Kashmir. As many as 152 Cellular Network Towers have been constructed on agriculture land in Ganderbal, Srinagar and Baramulla districts.
This has been revealed in reply to an RTI application filed by Advocate Hakeem Shabir Ahmad regarding information of mobile towers erected on agriculture land in Kashmir division. The reply has been given by office of the Public Information Officer, Directorate of Agriculture Kashmir.
The reply reads that 152 Cellular Network Towers have been constructed on agriculture land in Ganderbal, Baramulla and Srinagar districts.
The reply reveals that Government owned BSNL has constructed 37, Airtel 51, Aircel 35, Reliance 16, Vodafone nine, Idea three and Jio one such towers.
The Agricultural Department says they have nothing to do with the granting of permission for erection of Towers or to maintain any sort of records with respect to these towers. “The information pertains to the revenue department as all sort of legislation lies with revenue department,” said the reply adding that they have to conduct the girdawari of the land where the establishment of Towers can be carried out.
“As such the information can be obtained from the Revenue department,” it said. “It is pertinent to mention that this office is only supposed to transfer the latest technology of the agriculture to the farming community and to take the measure to increase the production and productivity of agriculture crops.”
Pertinently, 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.
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.
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. Government succumbed to the pressure of these influential people and shelved the report without taking any action on it,” said a revenue official. It has been seen that most of the agricultural land has been converted into non-agricultural purposes on the outskirts of Srinagar and rural areas of Kashmir.
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.