Shrinking saffron land

Wanton misuse of valuable saffron producing land for construction of private houses and commercial sites is a crime against nature. It is a crime equally against the farmers of saffron production who have been working on these fields and on this commodity for generation after generation. Saffron production needs special soil and climate and nurturing. It is a valuable agricultural product used in decorations, medicines and as sacred natural flower. There is no other place in the State or the country where similar kind of high quality of saffron plant exists.  In olden days, saffron formed the primary merchandise carried out of Kashmir in return for paper, silk, horses and fur from different countries that lay along the fabulous Silk Road extending from China to Europe.
The Government has banned conversion of saffron land into residential colony or commercial complexes. But notwithstanding the orders of the Government, the situation on the ground is very different. It is estimated that 60 per cent reduction in the quantum of saffron production has taken place. This is a great loss to the farmers and the State as well. Actually the Saffron Mission Project floated by the Central Government at a hefty financial support has not succeeded in stopping the farmers from converting saffron producing land into housing colony. They rightly point out that the Government is the first violator of its own rules because it has built Government structures on saffron land. How then can theGovernment deny the farmers the right to use the land for construction purposes?
It is for the first time in the history of Kashmir that saffron lands have begun to shrink considerably owing to human interference. It is a pity that the laws passed by the Government and Acts made by the legislature are disrespected and thrown to the winds. If, for the argument sake, the farmers were constrained to convert the land into residential complex, the Government should have ordered a probe into the reasons why conversion of saffron land is happening at a massive scale by the farmers. Once understanding the cause, a cure could have followed. Government officials have disowned responsibility by passing on the buck to the militants and demonstrators who disrupted law and order situation. Proper analysis of issues also provides space for solution and such space has to be created in one way or the other.If saffron producing units needed financial or other support, the Government should have considered that in a spirit of helping them. Constructive attitude to the situation could have proved rewarding. We still impress upon the district level authorities to prepare a working paper on saving saffron industry on scientific and pragmatic lines and place it before the Government for consideration and implementation.

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