After 2007 J&K State Lands (VoO to the Occupants) ACT No XII of 2001 could not be called ‘Roshni’ Act
Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to Occupants) Act, 2001 amended upto date – 2007 of J&K Legislature and rules made for that had come under discussions / allegations more after a CAG report was tabled in Legislative Assembly in March 2014 where in it was mentioned that upto March 2013 only 3, 48,160 kanals ( 3.48 Lakh Kanals ) out of original estimates of 20 Lakh Kanals of government lands ( anticipated for transfer to occupants of government lands) had been approved for transfer by revenue department for “very less” realisation of cost towards land transfer which was more so because the Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) ACT, 2001 Act No XII of 2001 which had received the assent of Governor on 9th Nov 2001 was then described as Act to provide for vesting of ownership rights to occupants of State Land for purposes of generating funds to finance Power to the tune of Rs.25000 crore since the unauthorisedly occupied government lands were then estimated to be around 20 Lakh Kanals ( 20,00,000 Kanal @ average 1.24 Lakh per kanal. ). Since the Act was in 2001 aimed at generating funds for power generation it was referred as “Roshni Act” in public meetings ( although this name nowhere appeared in the text of the 2001 Act.The CAG report had observed that only Rs 76.24 crore (24 per cent) was reportedly realized against a demand of Rs 317.54 crore raised by revenue department on the approved transferee by the end of March 2013 for the actual transfer of 3,48,160 kanals out of 20 Lakh Kanals ( 20,00,000 kanal estimates) in whole state .
The then Accountant General Audit (PAG) Subhash Chander Pandey was quoted as having told the media on 8 March 2014 that the “Roshni Act” was launched in 2001, it was amended in 2004 and a clause, which had maintained that the land was allotted to those who have encroached from 1990, was deleted. “The benefits of this amendment were taken by the law knowing people and ‘insiders’ and it lead to more encroachment on the land taking total illegally occupied land to 20 lakh kanals till 2014.The estimated market value of the encroached 20 lakh kanals land in November 2006 was Rs 25,500 crores. The issue was surely to create immediate inflated public wrath since some facts and elements of the Act as regards other amendments to the Act 2001 as made upto 2007 and the revised policies of the governments that followed thereafter were not presented in the rightful prospective particularly in the public domain like (i) the government had in 2007 amended the policy so as to transfer the ownership rights to occupants of government lands for agriculture purpose at Zero price with only Rs.100 / kanal as documentation charges. J&K Assembly passed the amendment to the Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) ACT, 2001 Act No XII of 2001 on February 9, 2007. The then Government claimed that the bill will provide free of cost ownership of 16.6 lakh kanals (worth Rs. 20,000 crores; and with 19 lakh cultivators as beneficiaries) to farmers and termed the decision “historic” and next only to the passing of the Land to the Tiller Act by the State’s first Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, who took land from the feudal lords and handed it over to tillers without any compensation.. Chief Minister had moved the Bill with amendments in the House saying that the land occupying farmers would have to pay a nominal fee of Rs 100 per kanal for getting mutation in their favour in the revenue record. He said the Bill, which would go down as revolutionary in the history of the State after the Land to the Tiller Act, was farmer-friendly and good for the growth of the agriculture sector, on which the State’s economy depends. With such like policy the estimated recoveries would not have been Rs 25,000 crores and would have reduced to not more than Rs 2000 to 3000 crore for the bulk there by stripping the Act 2001 of its nick name “Roshni”. Even as per CAG report tabled March 2014 out of total 348160 kanals decided till March 2013 a huge chunk (97.68% ) of 3,40,091 kanals had been categorized as ‘agricultural’ land worth free of cost transfer.(ii)The CAG report had observed that revenue department had approved till end of March 2013 only 17.4 percent (3,48,160 kanals out of 20,00,000 kanal estimates) of land for transfer in whole of state which in a way otherwise reflects that the revenue department have been exercising meaningful vigil while approving the claims since in 7 years proposals for only 17.4 percent of estimated lands under unauthorized occupation were technically cleared (iii) The CAG report had further observed that out of total land cases worth 3,48,160 kanal land decided till March 2013 97.68% (3,40,090 kanal ) land was given as Agriculture land at zero cost ( free) , then how could the Act could be designated as Rs 25000 Cr ‘money bank’ ? (iv).The same Audit itself had said in the report that the actual transfer included a major portion (3,40,091 kanals) categorised as ‘agricultural’ land transferred free of cost and for that demand raised was to be Rs. 00.00 Cr (Rs.3.40 Cr realised as documentation charges) . Further it has to be noted that the demand notes raised for Rs.317.54 Cr ( before discounts to long lease holders & others) if included Rs.3.4 Cr as documentation of Agri land charges then the amount of Rs. 314.14 Cr was billed for only 6949 kanals residential use , 990 kanals commercial use and 130 kanals lands in urban areas/ town out of 348160 Kanals. In earlier days ( 1950s/ 1960s) there were no organisations like J&K Housing Board / JDA/SDA and lands were allotted for residential purposes under government authority /under J&K Land grants Act1960 to the permanent residents of J&K for residential purposes on lease basis like lands are given in present times in colonies of JDA/SDA/ J&K Housing Board ( may be 20 Yrs, 40 Yrs, 60Yrs) . These people were not /are not unauthorized occupants but their cases for renewal had also been sanctioned / invited for renewal under the “said’ Act of 2001 ( amended). These allottees were given ownership rights on some concessional assessed market price which was surely much more than the average anticipated price in 2001 but much more than the price charged by rietory JDA / J&K HB for conversion of lease to proprietary rights. Even some of the allottees objected to cost in the demand notes raised and had even gone to the courts. That was also one of the reasons for lesser receipts against demand notes raised and should not have been outrightly seen by some one as favoured low price .
It may not be unfair to observe that the way the issues related to said Act have been handled all these years has not been fair to the revenue officers community , the J&K Legislature, the legitimate lease holders and even the small farmers since all have been named “bad”.
In 2007 the Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership To The Occupants) Act, 2001 Act No XII of 2001 had been stripped of its financial value worth the ” nick name Roshni” since over 85 percent lands were to be given free and this could not become feeding channel to Power Projects.
No doubt there could be some cases of even wrong / favoured assessment of rights/ possession/ cost but those could be individually fished out instead of blaming the whole infrastructure. One gratitude surely goes to Revenue Department for having exercised close vigil since even in 7 years only less than 3.5 Lakh kanal out of 20 Lakh kanal expected cases were cleared, had they bad intentions they could give much more lands “free”. Since out of the 17 percent of total land in view that had been approved for transfer 97.68% has been given as agriculture land may be a very very large number of cultivators who might have been holding unauthorized occupation of small pieces of lands even since before 1990 have been made to forego the due benefits of the goodwill gestures of the govt. Ofcourse the bonafide residential lease right holders since 1960s and earlier times too have made to unfairly suffer mental agony due to the controversies. No doubt it has been learnt that the present UT Government may be considering the undue impacts of some orders made in 2020 and some remedial measures in fairness may be sought / taken to relieve those who might have been made suffer due some needed actions not taken at appropriate time.
(The author is Sr Journalist and social activist [email protected]).