Central Law Benefits Not Reaching Land Owners In J&K: RTI Activist

Dr. Raja Muzaffar Bhat

Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir administration continues to deprive the people in Union Territory of the benefits of central laws implemented after the abrogation of the erstwhile state’s special status around two years ago, a senior activist said Wednesday.

Dr. Raja Muzaffar Bhat told Kashmir Observer Wednesday that after the revocation of Article-370 on August 5, 2019 by Modi led BJP government in New Delhi, three pro-people laws came into effect, including the right to fair compensation and transparency in land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement Act, 2013, forest rights Act and Scheduled Cases/Scheduled Tribe atrocities Act.

“However, on ground, these laws have not been implemented,” he said.

Elaborating further, the noted RTI activist said that J&K’s land acquisition Act 1934 came to an end when the special status of the erstwhile state was revoked. The law, he said, was replaced by right to fair compensation and transparency in land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement Act, 2013.

“The big difference between the new and the old law was the right to compensation. Under the Central law, affected parties, farmers and landowners were entitled for compensation three to four times higher than the market value if their properties were acquired for a project,” Bhat said.

Besides it, Bhat said, the new law also have a provision of rehabilitation and resettlement which didn’t exist in the J&K’s land acquisition Act 1934.

He said under the J&K’s land acquisition Act 1934, the government officials would grant compensation much below the market rates and at times they would see decide the compensation on the basis of circle rate and stamp rates.

“Why are not benefits of central law reaching the people of Jammu and Kashmir? Why is not a new notification being issued so that people avail the benefits of pro-people laws implemented after Article-370 revocation,” he said.

Speaking about the delay in ambitious Srinagar ring road project, the notification of which was issued in 2017, Bhat said that the proposed project was meant to ease traffic congestion in the city and allow smooth flow of traffic for the convenience of the people.

“Under the Land acquisition act 1934, the land acquisition process has to be completed in a span of two years. And these provisions are also in central land acquisition Act. But contrary to the provisions, there was no progress in land acquisition case in the two years. Even 4 and half years have passed, there’s no headway in this project,” he said.

Dr Bhat further said that DC Budgam in a written communication to the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir in May 2020 has himself agreed to the fact that notification for land acquisition (Srinagar ring road) issued in 2017 has lapsed due to efflux of time.

“He had advised the Div Com for orders to issue a fresh notification under the Central laws but the government did not pay any heed to that communication,” he said.

Besides it, Dr Bhat also quoted three judgments by the courts to substantiate his claims in the cases of Ali Mohammad Akhoon, Abdul Salam Bhat and Ghulam Ahmed Paul versus the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

“In the third decision on June 4, the court asked the status quo to be maintained and the landlords not to be harassed,” he said.

“Before that a judgement was delivered in the case of Abdul Salam Bhat in 2020. The court said that the land should not be forcibly acquired if the landowners have not been compensated,” he added.

He further said that the landlords have never denied and are ready to give their lands for developmental projects.

“But justice should be done to them. They only want a new notification to be issued. If Article 370 was abrogated on the promise that the new laws will benefit the people, then why are not benefits of right to fair compensation Act reaching them,” he added.

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