Agrarian Transformation in Jammu and Kashmir: Agriculture

A Case Study of a Village
Ashaq Hussain, Lecturer, Govt. Degree College Kelam Kulgam Jammu and Kashmir


The unique features of Jammu and Kashmir’s agriculture are predominance of cash crops, homestead cultivation, shrinkage of areas under paddy crop and dominance of small holders. A large percentage of population depends for its livelihood on crop cultivation with recently introduced horticultural Sector or fruit cultivation and cash crops like pulses and vegetables. The present investigation shall provide a detailed account of agrarian transformations and their impact on the age old agrarian relations in Jammu and Kashmir.

1. Introduction

Ever since the beginning of settled life rural societies have undergone various innovative and technological changes. In agrarian societies changes have taken place in the form of structural and processual transformation, these changes have sometimes been imperceptibly slow, sometimes ‘strikingly rapid’ and at sometimes even ‘qualitative in nature and character’, resulting in transformation of one type of rural society in to another (Desai 1978). Like rest of the world agriculture of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is also witnessing a rapid transition regarding shifts in patterns of crop cultivation. Since the time of introduction of land reform measures in the state in early 1950s, peasants were cultivating land for the landlords. With the introduction of various reform measures introduced by the constitution of India and as it was implemented by the state, peasants have got ownership over the land which they were cultivating for others. With the passage of time peasants have started replacing traditional crops with new cropping patterns. After 1980s introduction of horticultural sector has brought major changes in process and patterns of crop cultivation.

2. Methodology and Area of Study

The present study was conducted in a village of Kulgam District (a newly formed district among 22 Districts of Jammu & Kashmir State). Kulgam is in mainly populated by village’s approximately around 265 villages; the district is at 9th the study area), Pahloo, D. H. Pora, Devsar and Kulgam. Dstrict Kulgam is located at 33.65°N 75.02°E having a geographical area of 119791 hectares including 478 hectares of forest land, 3569 hectares of follow land. Out of the total land 76710.5 hectares are in net sown area and 45236 hectares is irrigated land. The total cultivable area available in district for various crops is 27070.05 hectares out of which 17910.69 hectares is irrigated land and 9159.36 hectares is un-irrigated land the district has an estimated population of 46739. Out of the total population of the district 80% is directly associated with the practices of land cultivation.

At theoretical level we had attempted to illustrate earlier studies. While at empirical level a village was selected in newly carved out district Kulgam of Kashmir Valley. The study sample consisted of 300 families selected randomly from the village and the heads of families were interviewed with the help of a structured interview schedule (which was pre-tested before the data collection). During data collection various research techniques were used like observation, structured interviews and questionnaires, group discussions with respondents. After the collection of data a code book and code sheet were prepared for analyzing the data.

3. Historical evolution of Agrarian Relations

The agrarian system of Jammu and Kashmir State was basically feudal in nature and the cultivators suffered greatly due to heavy taxation and levy on the cultivated produce. Apart from the heavy revenue demand peasants had to pay all kinds of taxes and above all was the system of “beggar” (corvee) for transportation purposes of collected crops in form of levy during Lohara Dynasty 1003-1320AD (Hassan 1959) and Sikh rule 1819-1846AD (Aggarwal and Aggarwal 1995). Only those who pleased the kings were bestowed with land in form of Jagirs or Muafis1 privilege and came to be known as Chakdars (Bhat 2007). Later the main demand of the National Conference movement 1938, (Parashar 2004) started with an objective of transfer of ownership rights on land from the Maharaja to the peasants.

4. Impact of Colonial Rule on Agrarian System

Before the introduction of land reform measures (Ernst and Biswomay 2007), since 1863 peasants of the state were oppressed by heavy burden of taxes in the form of cash and kind (Bhat 2007). Taxes were levied in kind for Shali2  and wheat and in cash on smaller crops like tobacco. The rulers used various occasions and ceremonies to levy, different types of taxes which were eventually collected from the cultivators with a large number of intermediaries consisting of state officials and community representatives. In 1892 the British reiterated the system of tax collection in kind and commenced it in cash. This move in agriculture of the state resulted in the advocacy of grain trade headed by Zaildars and Choukidars, the colonial administrators could not and did not change the basic structure of landholdings or the revenue collecting agency, the change introduced by them was in regard to grain trade* which resulted in a form of a economic change in valley of Kashmir.

5. Agrarian System of the State after Independence 1947-1972

After independence the agrarian system of the state had gone through rapid transformation, with the introduction of land redistributive measures under leadership of Sheikh Abdullah (Bakshi 1995). Among all the States of Indian Union, Jammu and Kashmir has the distinction of having introduced land reform legislations of a considerable magnitude (Rai 2004) and earned the reputation of ushering in agrarian revolution. In fact, as early as 1944 in the New Kashmir Manifesto, the basic principles of land reform were articulated. Land reform in Jammu and Kashmir is considered to be a success story (Thorner 1978). Its implementation can be divided into  two phases—the reform introduced between the late the 1940s and early 1950s (Khatama chakdari in Samvat

1 Jagirdari system, is a form of land tenancy developed in India during the time of Muslim rule (beginning in the early 13th century) in which the collection of the revenues of an estate and the power of governing it were bestowed on an official of the state. The term was derived by combining two Persian words: jagir (“holding land”) and dar (“official”). The bestowal of a jagir on a jagirdar could be either conditional or unconditional. A conditional jagir required in reciprocity from the

beneficiary some form of public service, such as the levying and maintaining of troops for the benefit of the realm.

An iqta (assignment of land) was usually made for life, and the jagir would revert to the state on the death of the holder, though it was possible for the heir to renew it on payment of a fee.

2 Shali is a regional term in Kashmir which means paddy.

position in the state by number of villages. The district consists of 5 blocks: Quimoh (including . Some of the leading officials of the State administration also got some land as 2007) is considered to be land reform I, and the reform introduced in the 1970s (Zariah Islahat introduced in 1971 and implemented in 1973) is regarded as land reform-II.

The Jammu and Kashmir land reform has an exception: non-payment of compensation for acquisition of surplus land. Ceiling of holding was made in the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act, 1950, having a ceiling limit of 22.75 acres of land. Since its implementation 4.5 lakh acres of surplus land have been vested in the State Government of this about 2.3 lakhs acres have been settled with tenants who were already in possession of surplus land. The government of Jammu and Kashmir in 1963 set up a Land Commission to find out the various discrepancies which had crept in over the years in the land tenure system. The recommendations of this Commission formed, by and large, the basis of Jammu and Kashmir Agrarian Reform Act 1972. It was further amended as the Jammu and Kashmir Agrarian Reform Act, with a ceiling of 12.5 standard acres including orchard land (Verma 1994). In Jammu and Kashmir rural transformation and poverty alleviation were regarded as strategic factors in the development process right from 1947. It can be hypothesized that land reform of the 1950s was one of the key factors to engineer basic changes in the rural economy of the State. The State enjoyed the unique distinction of having introduced land reform (Bhat M.S. 1993).

6. Changes in Agrarian System after Land Reforms of 1972

After introduction of land reform measures in the state peasants had started to change the age old cropping patterns with the introduction of horticultural sector. Since 1980s in the state especially in the valley of Kashmir the introduction of fruit cultivation has dominated the age old tradition of crop cultivation.
Introduction of horticultural sector has brought more and more land under orchards. Peasants of the valley have started transplanting apple trees on the land, earlier they were cultivating crops like paddy.

The introduction of horticultural sector has brought with itself the cash crop cultivation system. Like rest of the world agriculture of the state is also witnessing a rapid transition in form of shifts in patterns of crop cultivation.

Since the time of introduction of land reform measures in the state in early 1950s introduction of agrarian transformation in the States agriculture, peasants have started transforming their land from crop cultivation to fruit cultivation. In last two decades (1990s and 2000s) almost half of the land available for cultivation in the State especially in valley of Kashmir is being transformed to horticultural sector/orchards.

The growth and expansion of area under horticulture in the state has been high during the past three decades i.e. (1980s, 1990s and 2000s). Out of the total area under orchards in the state, approximately 90 per cent is concentrated in the valley of Kashmir, for the obvious reason of climate, and soils being conducive to the cultivation of a wide variety of fruits. The area under orchards is far less in comparison to the area under agriculture. During 2000-05, total area under agriculture was 30.38 percent; however, total land under the orchards was only 3.02 percent (Statics Jammu and Kashmir 1999-2000).

The data show that still there is a huge area to be explored for horticulture. The agricultural land can be utilized for the purpose of horticulture, because the gestation period in the case of the major varieties of fruit trees is minimum 5-6 years. Moreover, the plantation of fruit trees along with crops like maize, vegetables, fodder, wheat and pulses does not affect trees during the gestation period. Even after the gestation period, some of these crops can be cultivated along with the fruits. Thus it is quite possible that even if the area under these crops does not increase or even remain stable, the area under fruits could increase. Most of the land available for horticultural practices is in the districts like Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama, Shopain, Badgam, Baramulla and Kupwara.

The climate of Kashmir is favorable for the production of fruits. Production of fruits like apples, pears, and cherries is common in the territory. About 20 percent of the total cultivated area is under horticulture crop, about 4.5 lakh families are engaged directly or indirectly with horticulture activities. In physical terms, the area under fruit cultivation is about 1.73 lakh hectares (Bhat and Gopal 2006). After transplanting apple trees on the irrigated land it takes almost 5-6 years to grow up and get yield. The gestation period in the case of the major varieties of fruit trees is minimum 5-6 years, in between transplanted land provides opportunities to the peasants to cultivate various kinds of cash crops.

Like rest of the valley, peasants of the village have transformed their irrigated land to horticultural land. Right from 1970s transformation of land started, but was slow, the last two decades (1990s and 2000s) have witnessed a rapid transformation from crop to fruit cultivation. In the village there are 17.67% landless families, 23% land owning families of the village have not transplanted their irrigated land to horticultural land yet.

In the village 2.67% families have transplanted their irrigated land to orchard land during 1970-1975, 3.67% from 1976-1980, 4.33% from 1981-1985, 5.67% from 1986-1990, 8.33% from 1991-1995, 9% from 1996-2000, and 1970s. With the 14% from 2001-2005 and 11% families have transformed their irrigated land to orchard land from 2006-2010.

Although there are 0.66% families in the village, that had not transplanted their land but had purchased orchard land after the transplantation of apple trees by the seller. The study revealed that majority of the landowning families of the village has transformed their land from crop cultivation to fruit cultivation in last two decades (1990 and 2000s).

Mostly peasants are transplanting apple trees on the irrigated land just after the end of winter season. This season of transplantation is known in Kashmiri as “Sounth3 region start performing agricultural tasks. Although some of the peasants use to transplant apple trees before starting of winter season. After transplanting apple trees peasants use to cultivate various kinds of cash crops in Kharief crop season like pulses, vegetables including chilies and garlic. In off crop season peasants use to cultivate mustard and fodder on the transplanted land.

Here 0.67% respondents revealed that it takes at least three years for transplanted trees to grow up and get yield contrary to this 0.67% respondents reported that it takes around four years to grow up and get yield. The gestation period of transplanted trees depends upon their size. At the time of transplantation, if the size of apple tree is large it takes minimum time to grow up and give yield. Fertility level of some plots of land is also affecting the growth of transplanted trees.

During the study majority of the respondents i.e. 57.66% reported that transplanted apple trees take more than five years to grow up and give yield, 0.33% respondents reported with a different answer, they have purchased the transplanted/ transformed land and were not familiar about the time duration of growth for transplanted trees. The growth of transplanted apple trees depends upon the inputs like fertilizers, manures and irrigation. In the early years after transplantation of trees peasants prefer to use manures like cow dung and waste in place of fertilizers.

7. Discussion

The horticultural sector contributes largely to sustain the economy of Jammu and Kashmir (Swaninathan et al., 2008). Jammu and Kashmir is coming fast on the fruit map of India and the area under fruit crops is rapidly increasing year by year (Singh 2005). The total cropped area in Jammu and Kashmir has increased including the horticultural area (Kainath 1999). Cultivation of fruit crops in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh is presently recognized for successful diversification of subsistent mountain farming into cash crop cultivation; hence growing of temperate fruits have improved the socio-economic condition of the peasants (Jindal and Gautam 2004). Although along with cultivation of paddy maize and saffron different varieties of fruits were also cultivated but their importance to the agricultural economy remained marginal due to the absence of a substantial market for these products in the mid nineteenth century Kashmir (Zutshi 2004). In the past three decades i.e. 1980, 1990 and 2000s the horticultural sector is in expansion with the development of fruit markets within the state and outside the state.

8. Conclusions

After independence the agrarian system of state has gone through rapid transformations, with changes in cropping patterns and land ownership after the introduction of various reform movements. After 1970s peasants of the state have changed the age old system of cultivation by starting cultivating of market oriented crops. The peasants of the sate especially from the valley of Kashmir have started transforming their land from crop cultivation to fruit cultivation, by transplanting apple trees on their irrigated land. The introduction of horticultural sector has changed the economic scene of peasants and introduced a class of peasant entrepreneurs.

In the state peasants entrepreneurs have dominated the economic scene; they use to work as middlemen in the process of marketing affairs of cultivated fruits. Peasants of the village cultivating fruits borrow money against cultivated fruits from entrepreneurs on predetermined rates of interest and in turn entrepreneurs solely responsible for marketing of the cultivated fruits. Although in the village there are some peasant households that are directly connected with the market and are selling their cultivated fruits in different fruit markets of the country.

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