By K.N. Pandita
Fast disappearing is the memory of the days when the valley presented an image of lush green countryside. Insatiable greed for money and dipping profits in agriculture will soon present a new landscape in which the fields of the Valley will get buried under skyscrapers, factories and automobile workshops. Modern age is setting by stealth into the valley. According to the records in the registration offices, acres of agricultural land are being sold by farmers across the Valley everyday. These are being used for non-agriculture purposes. The outskirts of Srinagar and other towns in the Valley, which used to present a visual feast for the eyes, are today being deprived of their historic countryside ambiance. New townships are fast expanding and gobbling up all agriculture lands around. One reason is that agriculture continues to be a largely non-profit-making activity in Kashmir and that is why farmers sell their ancestral lands to those who come up with handsome offers. People are heard saying that a liter of water costs more than a liter of milk here.
If we calculate the exact cost and the labour that go into agriculture, it is not a lucrative occupation at all. Land in the countryside is shrinking as developmental activities gather pace. Roads are being widened, railway tracks are being laid and the construction of hydroelectric projects is in full swing. New office complexes and shopping malls are coming up. The net result is that the cost of land has increased phenomenally in the Valley. A kanal would sell for around Rs 20,000 in the vicinity of Ganderbal a few years ago. Today, it is priced at Rs 8 lakh. This is quite tempting for a poor farmer, who wants to sell the land and set up some business for his unemployed educated son. Large chunks of agricultural land alongside the Srinagar-Leh National Highway in Ganderbal- Mamar villages have been sold to buyers from Srinagar and other places that are setting up business enterprises.