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Part 3: Roshni Scheme Was In A Way Changed To Free Land To Tiller Act

Part 3: Roshni Scheme Was In A Way Changed To Free Land To Tiller Act

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Daya Sagar   Roshni

In March 2010, the Government informed the J&K Assembly   under Roshni 3.40 lakh kanals  was given as agriculture land ( @ Rs.100 kanal)  and only  6949 kanals as residential. Ofcourse the residential land fell under the categories like authorised occupants, authorised overstayed occupants and unauthorized occupants.

Similarly, Minister for Revenue Aijaz Ahmad Khan had said in his response to a question in the Legislative Assembly that   program had fetched only Rs 76.45 crore against the cost of Rs 317.41 crore approved on 3.48 lakh kanals of land for grant of ownership to the occupants. Similarly of the total 6.75 Lac Kanal of land allotted till 2011 about 2.72 Lakh Kanal was in Rajouri District and 1.19 Lac kanal  was in  Poonch district  where as the cost of land approved was just Rs. 0.14 Cr in Poonch  and just Rs.2.02 Cr in Rajouri. This shows that huge quantity of land was agriculture land and hence Audit should better reopen the chapters for investigation into the Agriculture land deals in areas like Rajouri/ Poonch etc.

Similarly looking at the norms set for lease renewals in colonies of JDA/ SDA/ Housing boards ( as per policy announced in 2001 it was Rs. 3 per square foot for extension of lease for another 20 years beyond initial 20 years i.e nearly Rs.16200/ per kanal for J&K Housing Board ) , rather  demands sent to lease holders under Roshni from 2007 onwards were much higher than the JDA / JKHB Allottee had to pay in those  days ( say in 2007) for renewal of even 20 yr lease residential plot of J&K housing board after expiry.

It would have been fair / better revealing had the report / statement  in plain terms conveyed that the  financial targets under the scheme have not fallen short  due to lapse at the part of revenue department but have more fallen due to State policy.

Similarly CAG observing that the principal objective of the Act, viz., raising of resources for investment in Power sector was not achieved though the state has lost sizeable lands is not that fair since such observations  could better be made  when audit of the ‘Government’, from where the Acts/ Rules/ Procedures  emerge, is covered  and not when the audit of a department ( Revenue ) is conducted that works for implementing government orders / acts of State.

National Conference Government had in  2001 come up with  J&K State Land (Vesting of Ownership Rights to the Occupants) Act 2001. Dr Farooq Abdullah had aimed at generating funds out of the encroached government lands by sale or auction  and investing the same in power projects, the scheme was hence introduced  as ‘Roshni. State of J&K had experienced serious militancy related turmoil  after 1989 , the then State Government had kept the cutoff date as 1990 for transfer  to those occupying government lands on cost basis, lands occupied after 1990 as  state lands “illegally occupied”.

The projected revenue collection was around Rs,25000 Crore out of nearly 20 Lac Kanals of State lands . The Act was amended in 2004 .In November 2005, the Azad lead government got the law amended and fixed the cut of date as 2004. The government had upto 2006   not  spoken of  any possible fall in Rs. 25000 Cr target .So, far there was no major policy change. It was the February 2007 amendments and The Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Rules- 2007 issued under Revenue Department Notification SRO 64 dated 5 May, 2007 that brought in  a major conceptual change.

Under the revised concept the State lands in possession of the agriculturists were to be transferred free of cost ( just Rs.100 / kanal as documentation charges) . The then Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had compared the amendments in the policy with the land reforms ( 1950 –  land  to tiller ) of Sheikh Abdullah. And while addressing public meeting at R.S. Pura on 25 September 2007  the then J&K Chief Minister had said that  21 Lac kanal  land was  being given to poor farmers at a meager price of Rs.100 per kanal and the market value of this  land was Rs.16000. So, now there was a fair case for renaming the ‘Roshni’ scheme since scope for generating funds (Rs. 25000 Cr ) worth financing the ‘power projects’ had been over cast by the indirect cost benefit generation through ‘socio-economic’ development of agriculturist community. But the neither the scheme was not renamed nor was publically declared that the power projects aimed at through ‘Roshni’ have been dropped.

No doubt one should appreciate any programme for the welfare of the farmers but it has also to be kept in view that the ‘public’ wealth when is distributed free there is utmost need for vigil and audit. And in this case since more than 95% of the lands were anticipated to be given to the farmers free of cost there was more  need for vigil on such transfers than it was for the cases on cost basis for the authorized long residential lease holder  occupants / authorized overstayed residential lease occupants / unauthorized occupants.

Instead , the much talked about Audit Report  as was reported in March 2014  focused on the audit  conducted on 547 cases of 666 kanals of non-agriculture land that had been on cost basis where as lacs of Kanals of land given free to occupants as agriculture land needed the first attention of audit but it did not happen. To quote out of the total 6.75 Lac Kanal of land allotted till 2011 about 2.72 Lakh Kanal was in Rajouri District and 1.19 Lac kanal  was in  Poonch district  where as the cost for  land approved was just Rs. 0.14 Cr in Poonch  and just Rs.2.02 Cr in Rajouri. This shows that huge quantity of land was agriculture land and hence Audit can still reopen investigation into Agriculture land deals in areas like Rajouri/ Poonch etc.

As regards the urban/ rural   lands for residential purposes / commercial purpose  there could be  many cases holding valid residential lease or had held 40 to 60 years lease since 1950s/ 1960s or the one that had though expired  but no notice of eviction had been issued to residing occupants who could in no way been-block  named as ‘encroachers’/ or one who sided with land mafia ( even in the new colonies of J&K Housing board there could be some cases of expired lease pending renewals).  The demand notes raised by Revenue on occupants were not fully paid since some occupants protested against the cost fixed , particularly even for those who were holding / had held  long lease ( even 40 to 50 Yrs since 1950s/ 60s ) and some occupants had also gone to courts against the demands raised.

To avoid the issues becoming complicated, unfair treatment to needy / fair occupants and getting the attentions diverted form the real defaulters, need is to review the  transactions made in the name of Roshni ( including even the regular residential lease holders) keeping inview that more than 95 % land involved free transfers, JDA had under  government order No. 88 of 2005 dated 18-03-2005 regularized 13 unathorised colonies in Jammu city ( Jogi Gate Rs. 15000/= , New Plots area Rs. 20000  and Chand Nagar Rs. 40000/= per Kanal  and even with discounts / incentives the revenue department has realised 13 to 20 Lac per Kanal from those who held genuine occupations ( long lease / expired long lease)  and  policy announced  by JK Housing Board  in 2001 to charge just  Rs. 3 per square foot for extension of lease for another 20 years beyond initial 20 years i.e nearly Rs.16200/ per kanal. Rather residential leased lands in colonies of JDA/SDA/JK HB where ever being used for commercial purposes too need be revalued for recovery.

No doubt where in urban areas some lands have been given for residential purposes  or to welfare trusts  but the lands were  being used for commercial purposes ( even in part as per Rule- 13), the cases did fall under misappropriation and should have been specifically singled out and recommended for reinvestigation / assessment . No doubt references of trusts like Khidmat trust (7 kanals, 15 Marlas and 84 square feet at Kothibagh) and Nawai-e-Subah Trust (3 kanalas, 16 Marlas at Zero Bridge) are there although in their case  also the basic  rate of Rs 110 lakh per kanal( Khidmat trust)  and  Rs 120 lakh per kanal ( Nawai-e-Subah Trust)  can not be termed as a low rate since these trusts may be  holding expired leases but regular  and old lessees ) unless they fall under commercial category.

With the Minister for Revenue, Syed Basharat Bukhari, informing J&K Legislative Assembly  on 18 June 2016 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  BJP 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 2011 the 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 estimate had been drastically reduced in view of amendment to Roshni Act made in 2007 by Legislature  and AG Auditors had in a way discussed the report overlooking this aspect and had more raised questions on the  revenue officers for the shortfall being more out of individual Urban allotments that were made on  the basis of  general locality wise base land values   fixed by the Price Fixation Committee (PFC)  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 lead 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 Cr would itself have fallen to less than Rs.1000 to 2000 Cr keeping in view that 97.68% of the land allotted under Roshni till March 2014 was under Agriculture category (as per CAG report upto March 2013 out of the 3,48,160 kanal land cases decided till March 2013  a large chunk of 3,40,090 kanal ( 97.68%) has been under this category.) .( Accountant General Audit (PAG) Subhash Chander 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 not allotted to those who have encroached from 1990, was deleted. “The benefits of this amendment were taken by the law knowing people and ‘insiders’ and it lead 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 land in November 2006 was Rs 25,500 crores,” ).

As per the information parted by the government agencies so far more than 97 % lands 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 more of  an immediate need to see the manipulations made ( if any) and favors 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 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, who 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 (Vesting of Ownership to Occupants) Act, 2001 amended upto date ( commonly known as Roshni scheme) }   the allotments could be classified in four categories:

  1. Those urban/ rural occupants who had been given lands/ plots on lease ( may be 20 Yrs, 40 Yrs, 60Yrs) for residential purposes as far back as 1950s/ 1960s. They had their houses in place, lease valid or lease formally to be further renewed termed as authorised 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 20yr / 40r lease and the lease has not yet been formally renewed. If I am not wrong as per JK Housing Board rules / norms 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 and I do not think Auditors at any time have raised question on that where as the ‘Base price’ fixed by the Price Fixation Committee ( Roshni) for the 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/is 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 Allottee have objected to alleging “such high” cost fixations and have either gone to courts or have not made payments against the allotment advice received by them from the concerned Tehsildar / DC contesting that the price / cost to be paid by regular lease residential plots / lands 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 finalised 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  and surely the payments not so far made under protests by some earlier residential urban lease holders  could also be the reason for short fall in realisation of demand invoices sent by revenue authorities..

Even as per the provisions of the amended Roshni Act  unauthorized residential colonies regularized ( 30-12-2004) by the Housing and Urban Development Department upto 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 treating them worth rights even less than the  unauthorized possession holders/ encroachers  and make them to pay more than grabbers (25 % to 40 % of assessed market cost i.e even 25 to 30 Lac/ kanal ). 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.

  1. Those urban / rural occupants who were allotted lands on long lease 20yrs/40 yrs/60 yrs as a society / trust or for commercial purposes.
  2. The occupants who have encroached government lands for residential purposes / business purposes/ and were holding their possession before 1990 ( later extended to 2004) , and have no any formal allotment / lease order issued any time ( in the past) for such lands in their favour.
  3. Those persons who have occupied / encroached upon agriculture lands and have been allotted lands under Roshni free of cost (as per CAG report upto March 2013 out of the 3,48,160 kanal land case decided till March 2013  a large chunk of 3,40,090 kanal ( 97.68%) has been under this category.

So in view of the brief as made here earlier , it would be wise and fair to note  :

  1. that amendments to Roshni Act 2001 {  Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to Occupants) Act, 2001 amended upto date – 2007 ( commonly known as Roshni scheme) } were made by the Legislature.
  2. that The revenue estimates made earlier needed to be revised worth going down by over 97 % in view of the revision of rules by Congress –PDP Government 2002 to 2008 when Ghulam Nabi Azad ji was CM so as to  give government lands for agriculture use to the occupants free 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  for estimated 20 Lac kanal total such land ). 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 categorized as “Agricultural” and subsequently transferred free of cost and no stamp duty was charged while transferring such a huge agricultural.
  3. that 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.
  4. that 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 individual revenue officers.
  5. that more need is to examine  (a) allotment of lands for the Agriculture purposes free of costs since it here where individuals were involved and the target revenue was made to ‘crash’ to as low as Rs.1000 to 2000 Cr only by this provision / amendment done by government  (b) cases where lands had been allotted earlier for social / education/ welfare purposes and instead  have been used for commercial purposes but the concerned verification revenue officer / authority has still realised cost for use by an institution / trust / individual  as non commercial / 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 did not make the payments ( 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 ) , did they have genuine objections looking at the present rates in place for SDA/JDA/JKHB  norms as regards conversion of Lease to FREE HOLD ? And in case it is so why not accept their request and realize the pending invoices raised by the concerned Tehsildars  / DCs ? This would also settle some grievances and ‘pending’ files. (e ) that has the Price Fixation Committee assessed the category / area wise base prices in the Urban areas much below the rates in official records  for the private land sale deeds or the base premium rates charged by  JDA /SDA/JKHB for residential plots ?  (f)  the cases of residential land lease holders of the periods as far back as of1950s/1960s  who have their houses in place with renewed lease  or lease formally to be further renewed termed as authorised overstayed occupants ( there may be also 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 .

The views expressed are authors own.

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