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Part 2: Roshni Scheme Was In A Way Changed To Free Land To “Tiller” Scheme

Part 2: Roshni Scheme Was In A Way Changed To Free Land To “Tiller” Scheme

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The Legitimate Desk   Land

Audit on ‘Roshni Scheme’ of J&K Government expressed concern over the data relying upon the fact that only Rs 76.24 crore (24 per cent) reportedly realized against a indicated value of  Rs 317.54 crore  by the end of March 2013.The main concerns of the Audit appeared to be (i) there was a huge shortfall in estimated revenue and billed revenue (ii) the revenue officers had undervalued the lands and had extended further rebates to the beneficiaries. Some answers could be retrieved from the audit data itself.

Audit itself has said it in the report that the actual transfer of 3,48,160 kanals of state land included   a major portion (3,40,091 kanals) categorised as ‘agricultural’ transferred free of cost . How could auditors expect crores of return against 3.40 Lac kanal given @ Rs.100 per Kanal under the provisions of the Act / rules just for Rs.3.4 Cr ? So, out of the the total cost indicated  for Rs.317.54 Cr an amount of Rs. 314.14 Cr was for nearly 8069 kanal land only (residential use 6949 kanals, commercial use 990 kanals and institutional use 130 kanals around mostly non Agricultural lands ).

And short fall in recovery of demands raised could be off course also due  to non payment by some  beneficiaries not satisfied with the quantum of demand raised on them. Here the better question could have been what action the revenue authorities have taken against the defaulter who did not execute demand notes?

For test, Audit   is said to have taken 547 (Revenue demand of Rs 100.12 crore out of Rs 317.54 crore) of the total transfers approved in the state and covering just 666 kanals out of 3,48,160 kanals of land The report itself says  the Statutory price fixation committees had for these cases fixed the price over  Rs 300 crore at an average rate of Rs 48.86 lakh per kanal (before allowing rebates and incentives.

The auditors have overlooked the fact that a good number of the beneficiaries picked up by them for test check also fell in the categories of authorised occupants/lease holders, authorised overstayed occupant and unathorised but genuine adjoining small land piece holders. and the indicative prices ( averaged calculated as Rs.48.86 Lac / Kanal as calculated by Audit )  fixed were not so  undercut  ( even after discounts the average realizable price comes to around Rs. 13 to 20 Lac per kanal from those who had given plots after payment of premium on 40 to 50 Yr residential lease as far back as in 1950s or 1960s when there were not institutions like JDA/SDA/J&KHB ) when compared with the the norms set for lease renewals in colonies of JDA/ SDA/ Housing boards, rather  demands sent were much higher than the JDA / JKHB Allottee has to pay these days ( say in 2007) for renewal of even 20 yr lease residential plot of J&K housing board after expiry ( there may be many cases still lying not renewed like authorised overstayed occupents  as referred in ‘Roshni Act’).

AS  as per policy announced in 2001 it is Rs. 3 per square foot for extension of lease for another 20 years beyond intial 20 years i.e nearly Rs.16200/ per Kanal for J&K Housing Board  and it could be taken for comparison for residential leased lands of 6949 kanals by audit.

Similarly as per the provisions of the amended Roshni Act unauthorized residential colonies on government lands that were regularized by the Housing and Urban Development Department upto 2005, do not fall under the ambit of the Roshni scheme. Jammu Development Authority under government order No. 88 of 2005 dated 18-03-2005 had regularised 13 unathorised colonies 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. Those accommodated were unathorised land users and were charged not more than Rs.40000/ per kanal. Hence  while assessing the work done by revenue officers under the statutory provisions before revenue officers , the Audit should have investigated into cases picked up for test check  keeping in view similar  cases  pertaining to Housing Boards and JDA for extension of lease of plots  allotted against premium  and annual rent or unauthorizedencroachments Some   of the lease owners of government land who had been granted lands under proper government orders may have hence instead  genuine reasons to feel discriminated under the policy for treating them worth rights even less than the  unauthorized encroachers / non genuine encroachers  and make them to pay more (25 % to 35 % of assessed general market price  ) than land  grabbers  whose possessions were regularized on 30-12-2004.

It could also be said that may the course for test check that the Audit adopted has in a way diverted the attention of the people from the real defaulters and unduly brought all the revenue officers under question mark?  Rather it  would have been a better yielding and meaningful exercise had the auditors taken a few hundred test cases out of the agricultural lands allotted @rs.100/ kanal (say as per some data reported in media on 25 June 2011 out of total land of 6.72 Lac kanal – approved cost Rs.304 Cr-,  in Poonch district total land referred was  1.19 Lac   kanals and revenue billed was only Rs. 0.14 Cr   and in Rajouri district total land referred was 2.72 Lac  kanal and revenue billed was just only Rs.2.2 Cr)  where there would be more  approvals for transfer of agricultural lands free of cost.

Therefore, CAG commenting on the provisions made in the Act / statutory rules made by government as regards the physical and economic norms may appear pleasing to some but surely it would not be that appealing after proposed reviews are conducted.

In addition to expressing difficulties being faced for conduct of Audit into sanctions accorded under the  provisions of Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001 as amended in 2007 by Congress lead Congress- PDP Government and the  JAMMU AND KASHMIR STATE LANDS (VESTING OF OWNERSHIP TO THE OCCUPANTS) RULES, or 2007 -Notification SRO 64 dated 5th May, 2007 made in  exercise of the powers conferred by Section-18 of the Act , the Accountant General Audit  in March 2014 had expressed ‘very serious’ concern for  there being remote possibilities for reaching the estimated revenue for nearly 20 lakh kanals of ‘encroached’ land  ( in November 2006 as  Rs 25,500 crores) mentioning  that  (i) 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 of land  (ii) audit was conducted on 547 cases of 666 kanals of non-agriculture land in State which was allotted to the beneficiaries where Rs 355 crores was fixed as base price but  only Rs 75 Crores were received by the Government (iii) Roshni Act  mentioning that   lands would be given to only Permanent Residents of J&K  but the government has given land to five  trusts although none of them is registered in J&K as per the Company Act of J&K.

The CAG had alleged irregularities in transfer of encroached land to occupants in Jammu and Kashmir from 2007 to 2013 saying that  state government realised just Rs 76 crore against a target of Rs 25,448 ( 25500)  crore, defeating the purpose of the legislation to raise resources for investment in Power sector. Auditors here have overlooked the fact that after the Congress- PDP made amendments in the objectives and rule under the scheme  in 2004 /2007, the spirit for generating resources worth Rs.25000 Cr  had been taken away and hence making such observation did not fall within the scope of Audit since as per the Government Policy adopted in 2007 a provision had been created for transferring occupied government lands to occupants for agricultural use  free of cost charging only Rs.100 / Kanal as documentation charges. And such lands were quoted at different occasions in 2006-2008 being from 13 Lac to even 20 Lac Kanals .Ghulam Nabi Azad ji had said (Parade Grounds Jammu) on 19 November 2006 on the occasion of 79th birth anniversary of Smt Indira Gandhi ke 79th “I’m not here with any kind of personal agenda, but I am committed to provide justice to the people of the State and over all development of all the three regions of the State,.”  Ghulam Nabi Azad ji had declared his intentions publically on 6thNovember 2006 for taking a campaign against the  encroachers saying that 13 lac kanals of lands are under the illegal occupation of land mafia and later on  19 November  he had said that said lands were  20 Lac kanals and that could be said only after some identifications. But so strangely Ghulam Nabi Azad Ji had also  said while addressing public meeting at R.S. Pura on 25 September 2007 that 21 Lac kanal  land is being given to poor farmers at a meager price of Rs.100 per kanal and the market value of this  land is Rs.16000 crores. In case we go with the words of Ghulam  Nabi Azad then there should be no land grabbers  or land mafia since more than the estimated 20 lakh kanal land under encroachments has been with small and poor needy agriculturists. Even then it was asked that where had the land grabbers gone  or would these lands be given to poor farmers after taking away from the land grabbers ? From where will the investments to be made on power projects would come since lands worth 16000 crores would be given just for Rs.22 crores to the agriculturists?  The spirit behind the scheme was hence totally revolutionized as a social cause and therefore the Audit should not have ignored this. Rather audit should have concentrated more on the subject that whether the lands encroached by the so called ‘land mafia’ were retrieved and given to poor agriculturists? And since the lands were given free there could be some malafide worth attracting the attention of audit, why did not audit pick up test cases from this category?

To have a real feel of the subject matter of observations made here, there is a must need to have a look at some other references made by the auditors.

As per reports that appered in media as well, by March 2013, a total of 2,54,439 applications had been received for transfer of 17,86,387 kanal land out of which 1,76,774 applications had been disposed of and transfer of total 3,48,160 kanal land had been approved. According to the report, of the 3, 48,160 kanals of land approved for transfer, major portion (3,40,091) kanals was categorized as “Agricultural” and subsequently transferred free of cost ( just Rs.100 /kanal taken for documentation). So, the first inference that could be drawn here is that out of 340091 Kanals of land the amount that could be possibly realised under the revised Act / rules of 2007 by the revenue authorities was not more than Rs.3.4 Cr only and not around Rs.4130 Cr  by method of proportions that the auditors were apparently relying upon while accusing the whole ‘family’ of revenue officers.{ Rs. 25500 crore for 20,00,000 Kanal – ( here the assumption was that the land has been encroached upon in a absolute authorised manner and was without any anticipatory rights for possession as could be there for small land pieces adjoining some main ownership / leasehold lands )  and Rs.4130 Cr for 3,40,191 kanals } .No doubt this approach did provide politicians to score points over Congress and lay accusations on all  Revenue Officers ( but otherwise it did not stand to logic for audit purposes).

No doubt the approach adopted by audit did provide some opportunity to some who might have not handled the ‘agricultural land ‘ cases that truthfully that formed the bulk of land, rather such exercise should  be taken afresh in areas where bulk of agri land has been transferred ( say as per some data reported in media on 25 June 2011 out of total land of 6.72 Lac kanal – approved cost Rs.304 Cr-,  in Poonch district total land referred was  1.19 Lac   kanals and revenue billed was only Rs. 0.14 Cr   and in Rajouri district total land referred was 2.72 Lac  kanal and revenue billed was just only Rs.2.2 Cr

The Audit on ‘Roshni’ Scheme had made some serious observation regarding the working of revenue authorities. The audit went to the extent of even almost suggesting  that  rules for implementation of J&K State Roshni Act-2001 ( with amendments) provided for transfers of  agricultural lands  free of cost, which is beyond the scope, objectives and mandatory provisions of the Act and hence  all transfers of agricultural lands under the Act become were illegal. Where, as it has to be accepted that the rules are not made by revenue officers at their own level, these are made by the Government.

Part 2: Roshni Scheme Was In A Way Changed To Free Land To “Tiller” Scheme It is not out of place to mention here that the Act also provided that the rules were not required to be approved by the Legislature and Government had the discretion to make the rules including setting the procedure / norms for price fixation and the guidelines for the revenue officers there for it would be unfair to accuse the revenue officer of having done something illegal.  Yes, may be under the cover of the provisions and rules some revenue officers could be there who might have cleared some cases for personal benefits.

In 2001, A R Rather had come up with  J&K State Land (Vesting of Ownership Rights to the Occupants) Act 2001 , government had kept January 1990 as cut-of date and described as state land the land as “illegally occupied” after 1990 and in November 2005, the Azad government took over and brought amendments in the law fixing  the cut of date as 2004  and  then followed the February 2007 amendments The Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Rules, 2007, were issued under Revenue Department Notification SRO 64 dated 5 May, 2007..

Abdul Rahim Rather had spoken against the amendments brought by Azad government saying that Sheikh Abdulla snatched land from land-grabbers and gave that to tillers free of cost but the then Government was giving property rights to land-grabbers who have occupied Nazool land in cities and Khalisa land in villages. On October 17, 1950, Sheikh Abdullah declared policy of liquidating the big landed estates and  Big Landed Estates Abolition Act was enacted ( 13 July 1950) and on November 5, 1951 Revenue Minister M.M.A. Beg  had refused to give compensation to landlords.

The Ghulam Nabi Azad led coalition government in 2007 had compared Roshni Act with the land reforms of Sheikh Abdullah. The Congress PDP government had in 2006  claimed that Roshni scheme would generate Rs 25000 crores. Later it was said that only Rs 6000 crores would be generated after the amendments incorporating the social object in the programme by the government.  So it is not fair to keep on accusing solely the Revenue department that under Roshni scheme as against the target of Rs.25000 Cr it has not realised even a few hundred crores since realisation plan had been revised by the Government / Legislature and not by the Revenue officers / staff. To be continued.

 

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