Ring of uncertainty

It is so unfortunate that the mega projects that are announced with great fanfare are easily forgotten afterwards. The case in point here is the ring road in Kashmir province. A year back PM announced the project and a year later we are at a stage where even the land for the project is not there to start work on. The pathetic state of affairs in Kashmir comes in bold relief when we compare the same projects in another part of the same J&K state. The work on the ring road has taken off in Jammu, but Kashmir is still far away from breaking the ground. The reasons for this delay, as explained by the officials, is the compensation.

The land owners, whose landholdings will be affected by this project, are in a state of anguish because they feel that it will lead to loss of livelihood. They simply want the government to compensate them justly so that their economic health is not adversely affected. It’s pertinent to mention that there are huge chunks of agricultural land that are getting affected because of this road project. As the GK report underlines, referring to a revenue document, “Kashmir will lose 4730 kanals of agriculture land to the project. Semi ring road will take away 3661 kanals of agriculture land in Budgam, 379 kanals in Pulwama, 202 kanals in Srinagar, 150 kanals in Baramulla, 160 kanals in Bandipora and 176 kanals in Ganderbal.” The question is that how are the farmers to be compensated. The dispute of course is over the rate of compensation.

This is a matter of mathematics and the rules applied elsewhere in India should not be flouted in case of Kashmir. If there is a Land Acquisition Policy running at the country level, and that is supposed to pay the farmers adequately before their land is taken for some government project, it should be applied here as well. That policy must take into account the existing market rates of the land, and the long term effect on the economic well being of the land owners. Development projects must be a part of a growing economy but at the same time this development must not come at the cost of landowners. They must be compensated justly, and quickly.