Roshni Probe

THE J&K administration has published on its website the list of beneficiaries under the Roshni Act, many of whom include former ministers, retired civil servants and politicians. The Roshni scheme under which government land was regularised in the name of its occupants has run into controversy following allegations of irregularities in the transfer of properties. The scheme, which was meant to raise Rs 25000 crore to finance buying of hydropower projects by selling state land under unauthorized occupation turned out to be the “biggest land scam” in the former state. It has fetched only a few hundred crore rupees since it was enacted in 2001. Though the the scale of the scam is bigger in Jammu, it hardly matters: The revenue earned from the land is disproportionately less than the target. This means that the state has lost almost Rs 24,800 crore of the projected Rs 25000 crore under the scheme..

The scheme was enacted by National Conference government in 2002. However, it was amended by the PDP-Congress led coalition government in 2004 and 2007. In 2006, the Government had estimated that the total state land was 1,25,03,973 kanal, of which 20,64,972 kanal was under encroachment. The encroached land was valued at Rs 25,448 crore. Though on paper, the scheme looked fantastic, it turned out a massive disappointment. Once again, the culprit is the ineffective and the corrupt implementation. Why did an otherwise well-meaning scheme degenerate into the “biggest land scam? Nobody knows. Why didn’t previous governments investigate it properly? This is because many of its senior functionaries were themselves its beneficiaries including the rich businessmen and prominent civil society figures.

In February 2007, the then Ghulam Nabi Azad-led Congress government had amended the Act to transfer agricultural land to its occupants at a nominal fee of Rs 100. Though the government justified the move by saying that 19 lakh cultivators would benefit, it didn’t realise that the then state had less than 16 lakh cultivators and only 16.27 percent of them had encroached upon government land.

Now, with the CBI taking over the case and land allotments being cancelled, it is likely to open a Pandoras box. The land and properties sold under the repealed Roshni Act are already under the occupation of their new owners. It remains to be seen whether the government will take steps to evict them or make them pay the latest market rates for such properties.

That said, it’s important that the scheme and the investigation is not politicized. And also that it is not seen as a part of the attempt to execute the ideological agenda of the ruling party. Unfortunately, the invalidation of Roshni scheme and the investigation into it is inviting both the accusations. And it is incumbent on the government to dispel these doubts by making investigation as impartial as possible.

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