The Housing Policy

Else willy-nilly conversion of land for purposes other than agricultural production will have a irrefutable rationale for its de-facto continuance as a past-present practice with agenda for future. Government has to come up with succour and not the scourge.
The Housing Policy
File Photo

As per census the population of J&K rose from 1,01,43,700 in 2001 to 1,25,48,926 in 2011 showing  a decadal growth rate of 23.71 per cent. Based on this percentage , J&K ranking  6th in the category of area with an area of 2,22,236 kilometres is sure to cross 1.55 crore population by the year 2021 making an increase of 29,75,350 souls. Expansion of  basic human needs  will follow as a natural corollary. This will demand  pieces/patches of land to live be it a cart driver, sole trader, street vendor, bureaucrat or a corporate body. The imminent fallout of this will be need for increased number of dwelling units and the decrease in the production of food grains. This   situation will be further aggravated by the mode of nuclear family system adopted here since recent past as the concept of vertical housing has hardly taken up and  living  in exclusive  houses remained a norm. In yore generations would live together sharing one kitchen /roof  peacefully, proudly and  joyfully. Now is the U-turn  every one wanting to  have least interventions separating and secluding  even parents.

This has goaded people to resort to either conversion of agricultural land  or encroachments of state lands  for raising residential structures  irrespective of rural-urban divide lessening the number of operational land holders/ area of land holdings contributing to  decreased production of food grains  necessitating huge yearly imports. This is borne out by the revelations of   the J & K  Economic Survey  2016  narrating that  State  has lost through conversion 53,000 hectares of land  within a period of 10 years between 2005-06 with 8.47 lakh hectares  to 7.94 Lakh hectares in  2015-16 forcing  Government to import food grains of 756.80 thousand  metric tonnes  compared to 50,000 metric tonnes  in 2005-06.

If  25 percent of increased population of 29,75,350 as mentioned above adjusts by raising super structures on the existing ones the  remaining  75 percent of 22,31,512 people assuming four member family size consuming plots at a uniform rate of 5 marlas will need 6973 hectares of land. Moreover, if out of 75 percent population of 22,31,512  only 25 percent start  trade & business outlets this will require 512 hectares of land for the shop size of 10'× 10¬¬' leading to conversion /occupation of at least 7485 hectares of land.

Whereas every Government makes public believe its concern over the conversion of agricultural  land for commercial & non-agricultural purposes and retrieval of state lands lost under encroachments, the element of human need turning into a problem and the pivot of proper & efficient planning should not miss the attention. Till vast space above the earth is surmounted, people have to live either in  houses  or houseboats  afloat waters as inescapable  alternatives. I was shocked to see a case of residential construction work stopped at plinth level by one  revenue official on the plea of it being constructed on agricultural land by a person who interestingly had no other  suitable piece of land. While the revenue official was correct in its observance and duty bound to carry out the orders of his higher authorities and threatening to invoke the penal provisions of  J & K Agrarian Act  and the J & K Land Reforms Act , the violator builder being in dire need  to have  a shelter of his own for his own family too was not unjustified in  activity. One was trying to protect  obedience  to law, other trying to protect life which has precedence over latter when put to touchstone of raison-d'être. One was worried about breach of law, other pained about breach of security of life & dignity. If laws are such, existence & importance of life asks for a debate and decision expeditiously as to which one weighs more to have preference  in this law-life clash.

Framing policies and making laws on any subject  even though  a prerogative  of government, safeguarding its side effects  is equally needed to make it a fruitful success.  Any policy howsoever beautifully  canvassed but devoid of public concern is destined to fail in practice. If Government disallows through enactment of Acts, Advisories  & Warnings the conversion of agricultural land for commercial and non-agricultural purposes by its rightful owners, there  must be an appropriate housing policy in place to face the inevitable  and increasing need for residential dwellings. Certainly Governance has to be meaningful. Intents of Government and contents of policy it contemplates should prove to be heelers and not bleeders. Embracing  public  applause  and acceptance of any policy depends upon the quantum of dividends it pays than those in its absence. In absence of such pegs to plug ,Government runs  deep short of moral and true legal strength & justification in the act of debarring the proprietary land holders to utilise their land holdings for commercial and non-agricultural uses. A comprehensive land use/management  & housing policy is needed  rather than mere specific land acquisitions which is no more than swapping weights on the two sides of a balance. 

People too have to cooperate in this endeavour and change their mind set of living in separate houses with shift to living in  multi-storied seismic-resistant eco-friendly residential apartments/quarters/flats appropriate to the soil strength as living in separate/big houses locks up capital more than necessary and necessity. This will reduce wastage of land, maintenance charges, security concerns, sewerage & drainage problems, pollution, bio-degradable  & non-biodegradable waste issues etc, and simultaneously facilitate  other positives  added with better community & social intermix of relations. This approach/action will  bushwhack in at least mitigating, if not eradicating  the problem which grows in geometrical progression in relation to unique characteristics of staticity of land. Unless the Government, in consultation with technical and non-technical experts on housing /master plans/smart city/town planning strives for evolving a harmonious  solution, present modus-operandi shall continue to  be laced with the risk of increasing chances for both corruption and harassment coupled with ever squeezing  arable land available for raising food grains  vital for over all development. 

Else willy-nilly conversion of land for purposes other than agricultural production will have a irrefutable rationale for its de-facto continuance as a past-present practice with agenda for future. Government has to come up with succour and not the scourge.

[The author is a former Sr. Audit Officer  working as Consultant in the A.G's Office Srinagar.]


No stories found.
Greater Kashmir