Prohibition on Conversion of agricultural land

Existing prohibitory laws may not yield the desired results till the government identifies land for eleven lac additional population for Srinagar city by 2021 A.D for residential and commercial purposes

ISSUE BY KHALEQ UL ZAMAN BUTT

The Legislative Assembly in the last session referred the Bill to prohibit Conversion of agricultural land for non agricultural purposes to the Select Committee. The proposed law provides complete ban on the conversion and alienation of agricultural land except with the written permission which according to the bill may be granted to the extent of 2 kanals for residential, commercial, industrial and public utility purposes. Should the government have proposed the new legislation in the presence of a number of enactments i.e. laws in force which prohibit conversion of any type of agricultural land for non agricultural purposes, and if at all new provisions were required to be enacted, would a few suitable amendments in the existing laws on the subject not have served the purpose which the Government intends to achieve through the new legislation. Also, is the complete ban justified? These questions need to be answered and for this purpose a brief  review of the existing laws on the subject is imperative which have come into force at different times in different conditions and for different objectives.     
The first legislation viz. Jammu and Kashmir Land Revenue Act came into force in 1939. Under this enactment there is a complete prohibition on converting of paddy or vegetable lands, floating fields etc into any other use.
The second legislation viz. Jammu and Kashmir Prohibition on Conversion of Land and Alienation of Orchards Act came into force when Mirza M. Afzal Beig was the   Revenue Minister. The need for enacting the said legislation was to prevent the people from converting the paddy land into orchards as between 1970-75 majority of the paddy land owners were of the view that the paddy was a non commercial crop which prompted them to convert the paddy land into orchards. This enactment does not permit conversion of paddy land into orchards and sale of orchards beyond 4-kanals without permission.
Mirza M Afzal Beig again is the author of the third legislation viz. Jammu and Kashmir Agrarian Reforms Act. This enactment imposes restriction on the utilization of Orchards by providing that the land recorded as orchard cannot be put to any use other than such orchard. Section 15 of the Act further provides that even orchard which may have ceased to be fit for such use cannot be put to alternative use by the owner without permission of the government.
The three enactments referred to above thus prohibit conversion of paddy land, vegetable land, floating fields, and orchards into any other use. I, therefore, do not think that we require any more legislation on the subject in order to ensure ban on conversion of agricultural land. We only require implementation of prohibitions strictly, and at the same time identifying the land for additional population of about 11 lac people of Srinagar who will have to be provided land for their residential and commercial purposes in the Srinagar Urban area by 2021. For this purpose the Select Committee may have to examine the Jammu and Kashmir Development Act, 1970 under which the Master Plans are drawn. The Master Plans for Jammu and Srinagar cities, and also for other tourist destinations, which are drawn under the said Act for purposes of development of such areas  indicate the manner in which the land in each area – zone is proposed to be used. It is this land use prescribed under the Master Plans that the Building Operation Controlling Authorities, commonly known as BOCA take into consideration while according approval or refusal in the matter of building permission cases. The said authorities generally rely upon the land use prescribed under the Master Plans, notwithstanding, the fact whether the site proposed for the construction is paddy land, orchard, vegetable land or a floating field. BOCA do not insist on permission for conversion as required under the Agrarian and other similar enactments before entertaining applications for building permissions for raising constructions on the agricultural lands. It is under the garb of the land use prescribed under the Master Plans and the BOCA not insisting upon prior change in land use from the government that the people succeed in converting agricultural land for non agricultural purposes in the areas falling within the limits of Municipal Corporations and other Building Authorities in the State. In order to address this problem it would have been proper for the Government to have nominated the Minister for Housing and Urban Development also as a member of the Ministers Committee which directed drafting of the bill.
The Select Committee will have to consider seriously that by 2021 A.D the population of Srinagar city is expected to be 2. 35 million and as per the current Master Plan outlying areas from Buchpora to foot hills on the north—Mujgund to Narbal on the West side – Soibug and Ompora on South-west, Wathora and Wagoora on the South, Galander in the East-south,  and  Khrew on the east side have been enveloped for purposes of lateral expansion of Srinagar Urban area upto 2021 A.D , which means that all the agricultural land in the outlying areas of Srinagar will get converted into non agricultural purposes by 2021 A.D. The Committee may therefore have to take a review of the Master Plans in order to ensure prohibition on conversion of agricultural land for non agricultural purposes on the one hand and on the other hand identify land to be used for residential/ commercial purposes by an additional population of eleven lac people in Srinagar Urban area by 2021 A.D. The Committee may also have to identify the land for residential/ commercial needs to the additional population in other districts of the State as well.
If the recommendations made in the Master Plan of Srinagar for lateral expansion of Srinagar urban area which already stand approved by the Cabinet are executed on ground there is definitely going to be a change in the land use as far as the outlying areas of Srinagar are concerned. The Committee thus has to ensure proper development of such outlying areas and simultaneously also preserve the agricultural land to the extent we require for our own needs. The Government has very limited options available in this regard. The Government has either to allow the Srinagar, Jammu and other places whose development is governed and controlled by the respective Master Plans to be developed under the said Master Plans and make the restrictions on the utilization of agricultural land under the Agrarian and other similar laws inoperative in such areas or the Government has to identify the land for the residential/ commercial purposes by an additional population of 11 lac in other districts of the State.
The Select Committee and so also the Ministry of urban Development may also take into consideration that for purposes of the development of Srinagar, Jammu and their surrounding areas which fall outside the preview of the Master Plans there is a need to enact a new legislation which may declare the area within a radius of 25 kms from the outer boundaries of Srinagar and Jammu as Controlled areas with a view to develop Srinagar, Jammu and its surrounding areas in a proper and planned manner. The haphazard growth in the outlying areas of Jammu and Srinagar cities can thus be avoided and effectively controlled. It is only because of such a legislation being in force in Punjab that the Chandigarh and its surrounding areas have been developed in a proper and planned manner. In the said Controlled areas any kind of construction, re-construction, and digging may be prohibited without the prior permission of the Deputy Commissioner or approval of change in land use from the government. I hope that the government will consider this suggestion and take appropriate steps in this regard at earliest so that the haphazard growth in the outlying areas of Srinagar and Jammu cities is effectively controlled besides preserving the agricultural land to the extent possible after identifying the land for existing and the additional population for their residential, commercial, industrial and public utility needs. 

Feedback at waqarulzaman@yahoo.co.in

Lastupdate on : Sat, 10 Sep 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 10 Sep 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 11 Sep 2011 00:00:00 IST




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