How J&K Roshni Act Was Stripped Off Of ‘ROSHNI’

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On June 18, 2016 Minister for Revenue, Syed Basharat Bukhari, informed J&K Legislative Assembly about status of allotments made under Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to Occupants) Act, 2001 amended upto date (commonly known as Roshni Scheme)  in response to question asked by BJP member Rajiv Jasrotia. The subject has been again placed for discussions.

As per my analysis the investigation being made by government on the role of the revenue officers in verification of occupation rights under the Roshni Act 2001 (with amendments till 2007), fixation of compensation (cost ) to be taken from occupants, assessment of individual cases for the cost to be paid  and the short fall in targeted revenue generation  are not going in right direction. The result has been that right since 2011the whole investigation exercise has been lost in ‘individual’ localized allegations / contests as regards urban sanctions by the revenue authorities.

It will not be wrong to say that even the CAG report tabled in  LA in 2014 has not been made and seen in the right prospective since the report had concentrated more on the shortfall in revenue generation as was targeted in 2001 than on the revenue that could possibly be generated in view of the amendments made in the Act 2001 through 2007  by the Legislature. The ‘target’ revenue had been drastically reduced in view of amendment to Roshni Act made in 2007 by Legislature  andAG Auditors had in a way discussed the report overlooking this aspect and had more raised questions on the  revenue officer for the shortfall being more out of individual Urban allotments made on  the basis of  general locality wise base land values   fixed by the Price Fixation Committee and the rules made by the Government under the Act for different categories .  The CAG / Auditor had instead totally suppressed the fact that 

Ghulam Nabi Azad led Congress – PDP Government  had got the Roshni Act amended to include even the encroachments made after 1989 till 2004 in the scope and had also decided to transfer the ownership rights to occupants / encroachers of the AGRICULTURAL land in their possession “FREE of COST” by charging just Rs.100/ kanal towards documentation costs. This way the target revenue of Rs.25000 crore would itself have fallen to less than Rs.1000 crore keeping in view that 97.68% of the land allotted under Roshni till March 2014 was under Agriculture category. (As per CAG report out of 3,48,160 kanals of land cases decided till March 2013,  a large chunk of 3,40,090 kanals ( 97.68%) has been under this category). 

Accountant General Audit SubhashChander Pandey had told 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 upon from 1990, was deleted. “The benefits of this amendment were taken by the law knowing people and ‘insiders’ and it led 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 of land in November 2006 was Rs 25,500 crores”) . As per the information parted by the government agencies so far more than 97 % land given to the occupants under Roshni Act have been under the Agriculture land category and that way the target revenue could been seen as reduced to just Rs. 750 Cr. Yes, if at all, there was a more immediate need to see the manipulations made and favours done by some individual revenue officers, the investigations should have been taken on the “AGRICULTURAL” lands as the first priority than concentrating / hobnobbing around only some urban cases against what atleast some cost was to be realised as per prices fixed by PFC..

J&K Assembly under the ruling Congress party passed the amendment to  Roshni Bill on February 9, 2007. Claiming 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. The government 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 Ghulam Nabi Azad, who moved the Bill with amendments in the House, said 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.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.   

Under the Roshni Scheme (Jammu and Kashmir State Lands Act, 2001), the allotments were classified into four categories:

1. Those urban/rural occupants who had been given land/plots on lease (20 Years, 40 Years, 60 Years) for residential purposes as far back as 1950s/ 1960s

They had their houses in place, lease valid or to be further renewed (termed as authorized overstayed occupants) with no eviction notices served to them. It is not out of place to mention here that there may be many cases pertaining to JK Housing Board/JDA/SDA in Jammu/Srinagar where plots were allotted on 20 Year/40 Year leases and the leases have not yet been formally renewed. If I am not wrong, as per JK Housing Board rules, in case lease is to be converted to Free Hold, the extra cost to be paid by a Channi Himmat Jammu Allottee is around      Rs 1.40 to Rs 1.50 Lac per Kanal. I do not think auditors at any point of time have raised questions on the fact that the ‘Base price’ fixed by the Price Fixation Committee (Roshni) for residential leased plots to be converted into ownership plots was in many cases as high as Rs 60 to 80 Lac per kanal and price to be charged after concession was atleast Rs.15-20 Lac per Kanal (with provision of interest for delay) from the Allottee in case he/she makes a down payment. There have been cases where the residential allottees have objected to such high cost fixations and have either gone to court or have not made payments against the allotment advice received by them from the concerned Tehsildar/DC, contesting that the price to be paid by regular lease residential plots should not be more than what JDA /SDA/JKHB charge for their “Lessees” for converting lease to free hold. This could also be the reason for lesser realisation even against the cases that have been finalized, since some people might not have paid under protest. The CAG report has also observed that only Rs 76.24 crore (24 per cent) was reportedly realized against a demand of Rs 317.54 crore raised by the end of March 2013 in the actual transfer of 3, 48,160 kanals in the state. The payments not made so far by some early residential urban lease holders could also be the reason for short fall in realisation of demand invoices sent by revenue authorities. 

As per the provisions of the amended Roshni Act, unauthorized residential colonies regularized by the Housing and Urban Development Department up to 2005 shall not fall under the ambit of the Roshni scheme. Such 13 unathorised colonies were regularized on payment of Rs.15000 to Rs. 40000 per Kanal (Jogi Gate Rs. 15000 per Kanal, New Plots area Rs. 20000 per Kanal and Chand Nagar Rs. 40000 per Kanal by Jammu Development Authority under government order No. 88 of 2005 dated 18-03-2005. Some of the lease owners of government land who had been granted lands under proper government orders as far back as 1950s/1960s for residential purposes may have genuine reasons to feel discriminated under the policy for considering their rights even less than the unauthorized possession holders/encroachers. Cost for converting 40-year lease to ownership status should not be more than what was taken for unauthorized colonies of JDA by government in 2005 or other Boards of bodies is what some have pleaded.

2. Those urban/rural occupants who were allotted land on long lease (20 Years/40 Years/60 Years) as a society/trust or for commercial purposes. 

3. The occupants who had encroached government land for residential/business purposes and were holding on to their possessions before 1990 (later extended to 2004), and had no formal allotment/lease order issued any time in the past for such lands in their favour. 

4. Those persons who had occupied/encroached upon agriculture land and had been allotted lands under Roshni free of cost (As per CAG report, up to March 2013, out of the 3, 48,160 kanal land, a large chunk of the land i.e. 3,40,090 kanal (97.68%) has been placed under this category.

The amendments made to the Roshni Act 2001 {Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to Occupants) (commonly known as Roshni scheme)} up to 2007 were made by the Legislature.

The revenue estimates made earlier needed to be revised by over 97 % in view of the revision of rules done by the Congress–PDP Government from 2002 to 2008 under the leadership of Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad so as to give the government lands to the occupants for agricultural use free of any cost (just Rs. 100 per Kanal as documentation charges as against the original rough estimates for all occupied lands at around Rs.1.24 Lac per kanal). According to CAG report tabled in LA in March 2014, of the 3, 48,160 kanals of land approved upto March 2013 for transfer, major portion (3,40,091 Kanal)  was categorised as “Agricultural land” and subsequently transferred free of cost and no stamp duty was charged while transferring such a huge portion of land.

The base prices in general for different categories / locations were fixed by a Price Fixation Committee ordered by the Government and not by the individual revenue officers.

The norms for realisation of the cost after discounts on the base prices from the existing residential lease holders were also fixed by the government and not by the individual revenue officers.

There is a need to examine:

(a) Allotment of free of cost lands for the Agricultural purposes where individuals were involved and the target revenue made through this amendment done by government was as low as Rs.1000 to Rs.2000 Cr only. 

(B) Cases where lands allotted for social/ educational and welfare purposes have instead been used for commercial purposes and yet, the concerned verification revenue officer/ authority has realised cost for use by an institution / trust / individual as non-commercial or residential. 

(C) The verification of lands in legitimate possession of the occupants over the years. 

(D) Why have the beneficiaries who were sent advices for making payment for conversion of their leased (originally 40 years or so) residential plots / lands to ownership, not made the payments? (The CAG report has also observed that reportedly only Rs 76.24 crore (24 per cent) was realised against a demand of Rs 317.54 crore raised by the end of March 2013 in the actual transfer of 3, 48,160 kanals of land in the state). Did they have genuine objections, looking at the present rates in place for SDA/JDA/JKHB norms with regards to the conversion of Lease to free hold? In case they did, why not accept their request and realise the pending invoices raised by the concerned Tehsildars or the DCs? This would also settle some grievances and a few pending files. 

(E) Has the Price Fixation Committee assessed the category / area wise base prices in the urban areas much below the rates shown in the official records for the private land sale deeds or the base premium rates charged by the JDA /SDA/JKHB for residential plots?  

(F)  The cases of residential land lease holders, dating as far back as 1950s/1960s, who have had their houses in place with renewed leases (termed authorised overstayed occupants) to further be renewed (there may also be many cases pertaining to JK Housing Board / JDA /SDA in Jammu / Srinagar where residential plots were allotted on 20yr / 40r lease and the lease has not yet been formally   renewed).  

 

 

 

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