Changes in law violate SDGs

Economic growth, environmental protection and social inclusion are three core elements of sustainable development. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) set up by the United Nations in 2015 are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all by 2030. Though SDGs the nations are likely to address challenges which include poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice.

Climate change, environmental degradation, sustainable agriculture are the important aspects of SDG’s. Environmental Sustainability can only be achieved when we ensure environmental conservation, investment in renewable energy, saving water, supporting sustainable mobility, and innovation in sustainable construction and architecture. According to the national review report on the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) in India, the opening statement of which begins with  Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which is an ancient vedic phrase whose literal meaning is “the world is one family”. The opening statement read as

“The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are thus part and parcel of the country’s longstanding tradition and heritage. Indeed, the goals substantially reflect the development agenda of India”. During his speech at UN -SDG summit PM Modi had said

Much of India’s development agenda is mirrored in the Sustainable Development Goals. Our national plans are ambitious and purposeful; Sustainable development of one-sixth of humanity will be of great consequence to the world and our beautiful planet.”

Amending land laws in J&K

On October 26th 2020 in exercise of the powers conferred by section 96 of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 the Central Government issued an order called the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of Central Laws) Third Order, 2020. Through this order several land laws of the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir were repealed or amended. Some of the amended or repealed laws include J&K Land Revenue Act, Tenancy Act, Agrarian Reforms Act, Big Landed Estates Abolition Act, Common Lands Act, Consolidation of holdings Act, Flood plain zones Act, Land grants Act.

J&K Land Revenue Act 1996 and J&K Development Act 1970 were amended in such a way that certain provisions were incorporated in these laws and some other laws as well to pave way for non J&K residents to buy land and property in Jammu & Kashmir which is already a land deficit place. As on ground the land holding per family is not more than 3 kanals in J&K and this is shown at higher side in 2015-16 agriculture census (0.55 hectares) which means 10 kanals or more which is not at all true. Framers of J&K come under the category of marginal farmers. The national average land holding is 1.25 hectares ( 25 kanals or more). In a place where there is already scarcity of land, how can the Govt allow outsiders to buy land in Jammu & Kashmir? In future we will have scarcity of food grains , even now J&K imports 50 to 60 % of food grains. If Govt allows more and more people to settle here what would be the condition of J&K after 30 years? Directorate of Economics and Statistics in its several reports has shown constant decline of production of food grains in J&K particularly rice.

These arbitrary decisions not only violate many Indian laws itself but this goes completely against the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well, as the policy adopted by Govt is completely unnatural and un-sustainable.

Land Utilization Policy

The decisions taken vis a vis land laws in J&K also violate the national land use policy 2013. The preamble of the national land utilization policy makes it clear that land is the most important component of the life support system. The operative part of the preamble under sub heading Use of land must be judicious reads as :

“There is a need for optimal utilization of land resources. The country can no longer afford to neglect land, the most important natural resource, so as to ensure sustainability and avoid adverse land use conflicts. There is a need to cater land for industrialization and for development of essential infrastructure facilities and for urbanization. While at the same time, there is a need to ensure high quality delivery of services of ecosystems that come from natural resource base and to cater to the needs of the farmers that enable food security, both of which are of vital significance for the whole nation”

The recent transfer of 24000 kanals (3000 acres) of land for industrial growth not only violates SDGs but also the National Land Use policy. By transferring such a huge chunk of land for pollution causing industries, the Govt is pushing the residents of J&K towards dark ages. J&K which imports rice and pulses from Punjab and other states is made further dependent on them which will have a direct impact on our economy. As per the media reports even the Forest land is being transferred for creating industrial estates. What kind of development is this?

Conclusion

If the Modi Govt believes in the philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam or sabka saath sabka vikas why are people of Jammu & Kashmir being pushed to the wall? When Ladakhis resisted against similar laws and threatened to boycott the recent hill council elections, their representatives were taken into confidence and assured they would get protection under 6th schedule of constitution. Instead of strengthening the laws on land revenue, the Govt’s arbitrary decisions will destroy this beautiful place in the coming years. If things continue like this by 2030 instead of achieving sustainable development goals in Jammu & Kashmir, people in this part of the world will be pushed into a never ending environmental disaster. PM Modi must fulfill his promise what he made during the SDG summit 2015 wherein he assured United Nations to work on sustainable development and to ensure there is no environmental disaster under the name of development.

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is Chairman of J&K RTI Movement. He is also a Climate Action Fellow at Anant National University Ahmedabad