Another Blockade & Kashmir Will Starve3 May 2010
Srinagar: Faced with severe food deficit, people in Kashmir could starve if the Valley is hit by another road blockade similar to one imposed during the Amarnath land row in 2008, warns a study by the Supreme Court. It categorically holds the state government responsible for not making adequate food available to people in crunch situations. Elaborating on the barriers to food security to the people in the Valley, the study ‘Hunger in the Valley-Report on Implementation of Food and Livelihood Schemes of Government in Kashmir’-points out that Kashmir witnessed a huge shortage of food among other essential items during the Amarnath land row. Though the state government had rejected that there was any blockade imposed by some people in Jammu which in turn disrupted the supply of essentials to the region, the study by the Supreme Court Commissioner, Dr NC Saxena and Special Commissioner Harsh Mander has highlighted the imposition of the blockade by people in Jammu which had made the situation worse in Kashmir. “The situation became worse when people in Jammu region blocked the road which connects Kashmir to rest of the world for one month and didn’t allow any food supplies to pass to Kashmir. The situation became so critical that hundreds of thousands of people living in Kashmir were at the edge of the starvation and if same situation would have continued for more time many thousands will have actually starved,” asserts a 141-page study, a copy of which is lying with Greater Kashmir. The blockade of road had happened at a time when people are heavily dependent on food supplies from outside, says the study, adding the conflict in the state adds to the food insecurity and long protests could have devastating consequences. It mentions that the Valley was facing 44 percent deficit in food grains. “The irony is that the food deficit has increased over the last three decades in Kashmir region from 23 percent in 1980-81 to 44 per cent in 2008-09 and is likely to touch 60 percent in next 10 years,” the study says. The productivity level of all agricultural crops in the state is lower than the national average. In view of threats like road blockade, the direct food security schemes like PDS, ICDS, MDMS are important and only the state government has the capacity to combat the situation like the one in 2008. However, questioning the implementation of food schemes by the state government, the study notes that it is the responsibility of the government to look into the broader issues of the food security and run food schemes effectively to make food available and accessible to people. “The government can be held accountable for not making the food available in situation like road blockade,” the study says. The Commissioners were appointed by the Supreme Court in the case Peoples Union for Civil Liberties v-s Union of India & Others (CWP 196-2001), popularly known as the Right to Food Case. They are empowered to enquire into any violation of the interim orders, and to demand redressal, with the full authority of the Supreme Court. They have the powers to scrutinize any aspect of food-related measures and schemes and monitor the performance of the state governments in implementing various schemes and programs related to food security. The study undertaken to check the status of actual implementation of food, social security, and livelihood schemes in Kashmir in collaboration with the Department of Social Work, Kashmir University, covered 50 villages in 10 districts of Kashmir including Islamabad, Kulgam, Pulwama, Shopian, Srinagar, Budgam, Ganderbal, Bandipora, Varmul and Kupwara.