The Agriculture Department has directed its officers to take enforcement agencies on board to tighten the noose around those violating the law in the state. In a meeting on Wednesday, Director Agriculture (Kashmir) Altaf Andrabi said "Unplanned constructions like raising of colonies, factories, brick kilns, shopping complexes and other commercial establishments are severely affecting agriculture sector of the state." Andrabi said that the conversion of farmland for commercial purposes is increasing at an alarming rate in Kashmir valley and will have a devastating impact if necessary steps are not taken to contain the menace. Few years ago a former Minister of State who while acknowledging the unauthorized conversion of agriculture lands for commercial purposes said that conversion of agri land for non agri purposes like building houses was being taken care of under legislations like Land Revenue Act, J&K Agrarian
Reforms Act, Prohibition on Conversion of Land and Alienation of Orchard Act. While the high level meetings have completely failed to save the diminishing agri lands, rapid urbanization has furthered the onslaught with small holding of agriculture land fast disappearing in cities and on the outskirts. The data on land conversion is not updated, and even if we go by the one provided by Agriculture Production Department over 10,000 hectares of agriculture land has been converted in twenty years. The state government couple of years back issued an order regarding its policy on changing the land use in which it blamed housing policy for the unplanned growth of residential and commercial establishments. The order also cited the laws on land use and permissions to change the same – for instance Section 133-A of the J&K Land Revenue Act that 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’. The second was Section 13 of the J&K Agrarian Reforms Act, 1976 that prevents the conversion of agriculture land. Government’s failure to check the conversion means that the Revenue authorities have not been doing their jobs properly. A bill was also introduced to stop the conversion. In all, the drawbacks have been observed to start from weak legislations, extending to the enforcement of the laws and including the dereliction of officials, departments and authorities that are supposed to stop the conversions.