Speaker Pulls Up Govt On State Land Encroachments

Directs Quick Forest Clearance To Projects

Srinagar – Taking a serious note of a half-baked reply on a question about the encroachments on state land, the speaker, Muhammad Akbar Lone, Thursday pulled up the government asking it to furnish complete details on the issue during the ongoing session. Till then, he deferred the question asked by Choudhary Zulfikar Ali of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party.

Encroachments on state land

Choudhary had sought the details of the encroachments on state lands by politicians, civil and police officials about which cases were pending disposal in judicial and revenue courts. In his written reply, the Revenue minister had said “no such specific information was available with the department.”

Expressing surprise over the reply, the PDP member said cases were pending before the courts and still the department was clueless. At this, the speaker intervened asked the minister of state for Revenue, Aijaz Ahmad Khan, why he had failed to furnish all the details. He said the minister had done his home work properly.

“If there is no mention of politician, civil or police officers in the revenue record who have occupied the government land illegally, you could have verified the names and their profession by any other agency,” the speaker observed, adding, “you have not mentioned a single name who had occupied the land which means you have not done your job properly.” Not satisfied with the minister’s answer, the speaker deferred the question and directed him to come up with full details during the on-going session.

Earlier, the minister told the House the government was yet to undertake comprehensive exercise to collect all the details including names and addresses of illegal occupants of the state lands. Asserting that such cases fell under different categories according to the state’s Land Revenue Act and that appropriate steps were being taken to get the illegal occupations vacated. He said details on these were being collected.

Forest Clearances

On a question asked by the ruling National Conference member, Choudhary Muhammad Ramzan, the speaker directed the government to clear all the outstanding forest clearance cases for development works. In his reply to the question, the minister for Public Health Engineering, Irrigation and Flood Control, Taj Mohi-ud-din, said the department had yet to receive forest clearance for Kandi Lift Irrigation scheme, work on which had started in 1983 at a cost of Rs 300 lakh. Till March end this year, over Rs 287 lakh had been spent on construction of pump house, rising mains, inlet chambers and earthen channel of the scheme. However, he said, under the Supreme Court directions, forest clearance was to be accorded by a committee constituted for the purpose.

At this, opposition members and some members from the ruling combine were on their feet alleging that delay in forest clearances were impeding execution of road and other projects. The Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party members accused the chief secretary, who heads the committee, of delaying the clearances. The JKNPP’s Harsh Dev Singh said the centre had sanctioned crores of rupees for various projects, but due to the delay in forest clearance, not a single penny had been spent. He said some works in his constituency were awaiting the clearances for two to three years.

The NPP members shouted slogans against the chief secretary. Joined by some members from the treasury benches, they sought speaker’s directions to clear the pending cases. The Independent member from Langate, Engineer Abdul Rasheed, alleged the forest department were cutting thousands of forest trees but were delaying the clearance for development works. He sought resignation of the PHE minister.

“Since all members of the House are concerned, I hereby direct the government to issue clearance certificate for developmental projects within two months,” the speaker said, adding that if the committee headed by the chief secretary had any objection they should come out within two months.

Jammu Hunger Strike

The speaker disallowed the members of opposition BJP to raise the issue of hunger strike by its leaders in Jammu against alleged corruption in the state. Shortly before the start of question hour, BJP’s Jugal Kishore said his party leaders were on hunger strike for two days past against prevailing corruption in the state. He said several scams, including airport land allotment, had surfaced.

Disallowing the member to raise the issue, the speaker said, “You cannot raise the question of hunger strike by some people outside.” As the member insisted on raising the issue, the speaker asked him to come to the House with proof after which he would allow discussion.

EPF amendment

The Legislative Assembly passed a Bill to amend the Jammu and Kashmir Employees Provident Funds (and miscellaneous provisions) Act, 1961 moved by the minister for Labour and Employment, Abdul Gani Malik, yesterday.

The Bill seeks to make “the Jammu and Kashmir Employees Provident Funds (and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1961, applicable to every establishment having five or more persons employed at any time. With a view to reconciling the conflicting interests of labor and industry, a high level committee was constituted vide government order No.1255-GAD of 2011 dated 24-10-2011 to discuss the issues of Federation of Industries with regard to increasing the threshold limit of the applicability the said Act from 5 to 10 workers.

After several meetings with stakeholders, the committee recommended that the threshold limit of number of employees in an establishment for coverage under the EPF Scheme would be raised from 5 to 10 prospectively, provided that the establishments covered at present, and having employees lesser than 10, would continue to be within the ambit of the scheme in respect of the employees already covered; and rate of contribution of the employer’s will be increased from 8.33 to 12 per cent.

After thorough discussion, the Bill was passed without any amendment with voice vote as Ch. Zulfikar Ali withdrew his amendment after assurance from the government.

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