How fair was it to name “Roshni Act 2001” as amended upto 2007 as a Rs 25000 Cr Scam?

Why revenue against J&K State Lands (Vesting of ownership to occupants) Act of 2001 has been Low?
Not fair to fix reduced revenue recovery in the name of bad intentions of then Cabinet/ Legislators /all Revenue Officers


So often when some issues are raised, projecting them as issues of greater magnitude in relation to the common economic interests, the discussions & investigations do progress in right direction to start with but at occasions the discussions /investigations drift away from the right course. Drifting may happen due to some reduced seriousness / commitment to common cause or and ofcourse sometimes due to the reasons of personal likings / dislikings of even some of those who had initiated the discussions or some times for political considerations involving direct / directly even the respondents. The same has been the case with The Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act of 2001 ( received assent of Governor on 9 Nov 2001 and published in Govt gazette on 13 Nov 2001).
When the Bill for the said Act of 2001 was presented in the Legislature the Finance Minister had while introducing the bill nicked named the proposed scheme in the statement of objects and reasons as the ‘Roshni Scheme’ since the finances ( estimated as Rs. 25000 Cr ) anticipated to be generated were by granting ownership rights on cost basis of state lands lying encroached ( estimated to be around 20 Lakh Kanal) over long periods were proposed to be marked for construction / installation of projects for power generation and so there after the said Act / Scheme has been referred in public references/ discussions / debates as Roshni Act / Roshni scheme.
While estimating like funds to be generated under so called Roshani Scheme unit cost was averaged around Rs.1.24 Lakh/ Kanal since most of the land , as per information provided to government by revenue department, was in rural /remote areas and the then government had in a way also submitted to the legislature that in view of the extent / style / status of the encroachments the vacation of such lands would involve long process / litigations/ social conflicts and hence where lands are not required for public cause wisdom has been seen in giving the lands to the encroachers on cost basis.
The said Act of 2001 had been amended in 2004 & 2007 and were also The Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Rules 25 August, 2005/ amended on November 23, 2006/ amended March 5, 2007.
The original Act of 2001 that was commonly addressed as Roshni Act was, in a way was changed to something like “land to tiller Act 1950 (Jammu and Kashmir Big Landed Estates Abolition Act, Samvat 2007 (1950 A.D ) in 2007 where under nearly 16.6 Lac Kanal land out of estimated 20 Kanal of encroached state land was expected by the then PDP/ Congress Government to be under agriculture use and the then PDP-Congress Government headed by Ghulam Nabi Azad decided to give such lands so for use as agriculture land ( with the condition that land use will be only for agriculture ( and if changed market price will be charged) at zero cost charging only Rs.100 /kanal as documentation charges thereby drastically reducing the possible target recoveries to as low as around Rs.3000-4000 Cr instead of earlier target of generating Rs.25000 Cr based on the 2001 policy of granting ownership rights of unauthorized encroached ( upto 1990) state lands on market price and mark the finances for power generation projects. Not only that in 2007 it was also decided that the lands that had been given in 1950s/1960s/ or earlier on 40 yr/60 yr/ residential / other lease to permanent resident of J&K / State subjects of J&K ( granted under Jammu and Kashmir Land Grants Act, 1960 with the provision for auto transfer to the descendents of the lessee ) will also be in the scope of the scheme for giving ownership rights to lease holders (in case they desire so) on the terms as may be drawn out in the rules to be made by the government. It is pertinent to mention here that in 1950s/1960s there was no government agency like J&K Housing Board / Jammu Development Authority / Srinagar Development Authority for developing colonies like Trikuta Nagar/ Roop Nagar / Channi Himmat .
But after 2007 the said Act has been again referred so erroneously as Roshni Scheme even when Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad the then Chief Minister of J&K had equated his governments intentions with the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act, 1950 passed by Sheikh Abdullah government commonly known as Land to tiller Act where under some 9000 and odd ‘big’ landowners were stripped off of around 4.5 lakh acres of land held in excess of the ceiling ( 182 Kanals) and out of which some 2.31 lakh acres of land were transferred with ownership rights to cultivating peasants free of any charges / costs.
Some had even gone for naming the Act/ Scheme as Rs.25000 Cr scam even when the legislature had changed the objectives of the scheme and brought down the max estimated revenue to be generated to as low as Rs.4000 cr or so.
Not only that even after a CAG report tabled in J&K Legislative Assembly in March 2014 had said that not 20 Lakh Kanals but only 3,48,160 kanals of land { including 340091 Kanal Agri land ,nearly 97,7 percent at zero price and 0.08 Lakh Kanal non Agri land, 2.3 percent only ) had been cleared in seven years (from 2007 to 2013 by Revenue Department for giving ownership rights to those occupying government lands including long lease holders like 40 yr residential lease. So instead revenue department should have been appreciated for exercising strict vigil and having cleared only 3.48 Kanal land cases out of targeted 20 Lakh Kanal cases and that too in a period as long as nearly 7 years. No doubt there could be a few cases where wrong or favoured identification of occupant / category of land might have been done but that cannot be attributed in general as wrong intentions of all the officers of revenue department / Administration and even the Legislators as have been the general comments / observations from ‘some segments’ on the framers of the said Act / the Administration implementing the said Act on ground / or the beneficiaries of the said Act and more so naming the Act in 2020 as Rs. 25000 Cr land scam.
Not only that the CAG 2014 report ( upto 31 March 2013 transactions /approvals under the Act ) and those accusing the administration / price fixation committees of low price fixation had ignored the fact that the revenue department had charged much higher price / raised demand notes ( even after giving discount on the assessed market price ) on the residential long lease holders ( 40yrs or more ) of 1950s/1960s/ even earlier for converting to freehold / giving ownership to lease holders as compared to what the JDA/ Housing Board had been charging from 20 year residential lease holders of colonies like Channi Himmat in 2002/2007 and some lease holders had even represented against the demand notes issued on them ( some had not even paid). The CAD report should have appreciated this fact while discussing demands raised for over 300 Cr lands and realization of something like on 70 Cr or so only .
To be continued …..
(The writer is Sr Journalist, social activist and analyst J&K affairs).

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