Srinagar: At the time when the Jammu and Kashmir administration has intensified the anti-encroachment drive to retrieve state lands, several high-profile properties, government buildings and official residences, including the Governor’s House, have appeared in the encroachment list, TKW has learned.
According to the list compiled by the Revenue Department, which has been accessed by TKW, ‘Gair Mumkin’ land of four Kanals and eighteen Marlas has been used by the Governor House at Cheshmashahi, in Srinagar.
Similarly, the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) located in the Bonamsar area of Srinagar is also enlisted in the encroached list. The documents reveal that around 10 kanals of the state land are being used by the UN office, that’s currently being used for residential purposes.
As per the documents accessed by TKW, the Nehru Guest house, where the VIPs and politicians stay during their visit to Kashmir, has encroached on eleven Kanal and eighteen Marla at Cheshmashahi.
Moreover, over thirty politicians from different parties, including former ministers, have been mentioned in the Roshni list.
Speaking with The Kashmir Walla, Jang Bhadur, Special Secretary Revenue Department, said that land that is being used by any individual or by the state’s department without authorization from the revenue department would be considered “encroached land”.
Explaining it further, Bhadur cited an example: “If a Jal Shakti (PHE) Department is installing a drinking-water tap on the street, they need to get written permission from the revenue department to use that piece of land for the installation of the street tap.
“All the land that is being used by different government departments, be it for official or residential purposes, stands encroached unless they have the proper permission from the revenue department,” he said.
The Roshni Act – or the Jammu and Kashmir State Land (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 200 – was enacted during the Farooq Abdullah government in 2001 with an aim to generate Rs 25,000 crore for hydel power projects in J-K by transferring 20 lakh kanals of land to existing occupants against payment at market rates.
Under the Roshni scheme, occupants of state land were vested with proprietary rights against a nominal fee paid to the government. The occupants in Jammu got rights for over 28,000 hectares while in Kashmir, the stat was much less at 1,500 hectares.
In 2014, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) estimated that only Rs 76 crore had been realized from the transfer of encroached land between 2007 and 2013. The CAG report pointed to irregularities in the implementation of the Act as the cause of its failure to generate the expected revenue.
The report listed irregularities such as “arbitrary” reduction in the prices of the land and said that the reduction was aimed to benefit politicians and other affluent people. On 9 October 2020, the J-K High Court declared the Roshni Act as null and void. As per the HC order, a total of 6,04,602 kanals of state land had been regularised and transferred to the occupants.
Earlier this month, the Jammu and Kashmir government had set 31 January as a deadline for recovering State, Khachra, and Roshni Land from encroachers.
In the order, the Jammu and Kashmir administration asked all the Deputy Commissioners to ensure 100 percent removal of encroachments from state land, including Roshni and Kahcharai, by the end of this month.
“The department has issued instructions from time to time and, further, in pursuance to the meeting held on 15.12.2022 through virtual mode under the chairmanship of the Commissioner/Secretary to the Government, Revenue Department, it has been directed that the all Deputy Commissioners shall ensure that all encroachments on State land including Roshni and Kahcharai land are removed to the extent of 100% by January 31, 2023,” reads an order issued by Vijay Kumar Bidhuri, Commissioner Secretary to the Government.
According to the list, the Tourism Department has encroached 472 kanals in the Asthal area of Srinagar, including the Golf Club and the Kashmir International Conference Centre, earlier known Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC). Similarly, 2591 kanals have been encroached in the Dal lake – of this total, 38 kanals 19 Marla have been encroached on by the Jammu and Kashmir Lakes and Water Development Authority, which has now been renamed J-K Lake Conservation and Management Authority. The Public Works Department (PWD) has also encroached 54 kanals and 16 marlas in the Cheshmashahi area.
Earlier reported by media, prominent political figures also appear in the Roshni Act list including National Conference (NC) president and Member of Parliament (MP) Farooq Abdullah, his brother Mustafa Kamal, and his son Omar Abdullah.
The other names that have appeared in the list include former finance minister and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Haseeb Drabu and his family members, a prominent businessman and Congress leader K K Amla and his family members, former Congress minister Mula Ram, retired senior CS rank IAS officer Mohammad Shafi Pandit and his family members, and restaurant owners Showkat Choudhary and Syed Muzzafar Aga.
Similarly, the names of politicians involved in encroached state land other than Roshni include National Conference (NC) leader Syed Akhoon, Haroon Choudhary, ex-minister Sajjad Kichloo, former NC leader and advocate general Aslam Goni, Ex- Congress minister Abdul Majid Wani, and former chairman J-K Bank M Y Khan.
Speaking with the reporters, earlier this week, LG Manoj Sinha said: “Common man and poor people wouldn’t be touched by the administration. The government is concerned to safeguard the interests of poor people.”
The J-K administration has been rigorously working on the anti-encroachment drive to free state land, with over 300 kanal of state land retrieved in three districts of Kupwara, Baramulla, and Shopian. The drives are ongoing in other districts too.