FINAL ULTIMATUM | Sharks who grabbed State land under the hammer

Govt sets Jan 31 deadline for 100% removal of encroachments from state, Roshni land
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Representational ImageFile/ GK

Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir government has occasionally revealed the names of powerful politicians and businessmen who are in possession of sizable amounts of state land or land that was transferred under the now-defunct Roshni scheme. However, the government has now set a deadline of January 31 to remove all encroachments from this land.

All Deputy Commissioners in J&K have been instructed by the government to guarantee that all encroachments from state property, including Roshni and Kahcharai, are removed by the end of the current month and to submit a compliance report.

Vijay Kumar Bidhuri, Commissioner Secretary to the Government, Department of Revenue, has instructed all Deputy Commissioners to ensure that all encroachments on state land, including Roshni and Kahcharai land, are removed to the extent of 100 percent by January 31, 2023.

The Commissioner Secretary of Revenue has also instructed the Deputy Commissioners to develop a daily anti-encroachment drive strategy and designate Additional Deputy Commissioners as District Nodal Officers for coordination and efficient drive implementation.

Official sources said that the encroachment list involves highly influential persons of J&K including politicians from all major political parties and businessmen who have taken prized locations for peanuts.

The main beneficiaries under the act were the sister concerns of J&K’s two top political parties – the Nawai Subah Trust of the National Conference and Khidmat Trust of the Congress. Lands at prominent locations were transferred to both of these institutions and the rate set by the statutory committee was between Rs 1.10 crore per kanal to Rs. 1.20 crore per kanal which was having a market value of more than Rs 13 crore, which means that a rebate of 85 percent was given to the institutions having links with two of the biggest political parties of the state.

“The Deputy Commissioners should constitute teams of Revenue officers for removal of encroachments and personally monitor the drive and both the Divisional Commissioners should also monitor the drive on a regular basis,” a circular issued in this regard said.

A daily progress report has also been requested by the government through the respective Divisional Commissioners with the concerned Assistant Commissioner (Central) serving as the Nodal Officer.

Additionally, the Divisional Commissioners have been asked to deliver the combined reports through the Financial Commissioner Revenue to the Administrative Department Revenue by 5 pm in the format developed by the Deputy Commissioners by 4 pm each day.

The Deputy Commissioners are required to provide information regarding the total amount of encroached land on the day, the amount of encroachment removed day by day, and the balance for State land, including Roshni and Kahcharai, in order for the government to have a clear understanding of the progress made each and every day up until January 31, 2023, which is the deadline for finishing the exercise.

The benefits of regularisation granted to the beneficiaries under the Roshni Act were withdrawn by the Division Bench of the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir, which was led by the then Chief Justice Gita Mittal, when handling the PIL No 19/2011 and other related concerns.

Additionally, the DB had given the Central Bureau of Inquiry (CBI), the nation’s top investigative agency, control over a number of FIRs and the entire scheme with instructions to submit regular progress reports so that the High Court could keep track of the investigation.

Marred by irregularities, the influential took the cream from history’s most controversial law that was based on illegality, the implementation details suggest a clear and brazen discrimination at the regional levels.

As per the official figures, the government could generate just Rs 77 crore, of which Rs 22 crore was collected from Jammu and Rs 55 crore in the Kashmir division, but the land transferred is three times more in the Jammu region.

In Jammu, according to January 2018 details, the government transferred 1, 58,512 kanal of land. It got Rs 22.63 crore to the state’s Consolidated Fund. On average, a kanal of land was given at a throwaway price of Rs 1428.

While in the Kashmir division, against a receipt of Rs 54.27 crore, 13,732 kanal were given to 11,247 people. This makes a cost of a kanal land at Rs 39,522.

Interestingly, Srinagar city fetched the highest revenue under this scheme, a total of Rs 52.17 crore receipts were generated from 375 kanal of land transferred which meant a kanal of land was transferred at Rs 14 lakh.

The indictment of the scheme had come months before the 2014 floods.

Subash Chander Pandey, the then Principal Accountant General (PAG), termed it history’s major scandal. His auditors investigated the cases between November 2012 and July 2013, probed its evolution, changes and implementation and came out with a damning report. He told reporters that the entire chain of bureaucracy in the state resorted to non-cooperation, thus delaying the submission of the report to the state assembly in time.

“The Roshni Act was systematically diluted and damaged by making deficient rules with having very weak committees to implement it and giving rebates and giving agricultural land free of cost which was against the Act,” the PAG had told reporters.

 “Our conclusion is that the government acted beyond the authority given by the Act and violated it.”

CAG termed the interventions during the era of former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad “irregular” and “illegal”.

The PAG suggested fixing the accountability for the ‘highly questionable’ amendments made to the original law initially in the former chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed’s era and later by the Azad government.

Listing “substantive deviation”, the CAG report listed instances in which a huge mass of land was categorised as agricultural land and given free of cost.

The act was believed to be a revolutionary step in the annals of history in Jammu and Kashmir after the Agrarian Reforms Act.

It was hoped that the legislation would help boost the farming sector and in turn generate substantial revenue for funding power projects across the state.

The rules under the act were also notified.

Under the provisions of the act, applications for conferment of ownership rights were to be filed up to March 31, 2007.

The scheme initially envisaged the conferment of proprietary rights of around 20.55 lakh kanals (1,02,750 hectares) to the occupants of which only 15.85 percent of land was approved for vesting of ownership rights.

Jammu and Kashmir Law Commission under the aegis of its chairman Justice (Retd) M K Hanjura had submitted a detailed 53-page report, which revealed shocking results on the Roshni Act.

The commission termed the act as a “typical example of the fences swallowing the crop. These are covered in dust from top to toe. The state has gone against the grain in legislating the act and in framing the rules. It prepared the chicken feed for itself and the bees sowed the wild oats. It has blessed its flowers and the weeds. Such legislation where a huge chunk of land comprising thousands of kanal in which the public, in general, had an interest has been conveniently allowed to be transferred to the trespassers and the encroachers by a blatant misuse of the public trust and power cannot find a place in any nook and corner of the Indian State.”

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