by Masood Hussain
JAMMU: Roshni, the darkest initiative in J&K’s revenue history, was a racket when the Ghulam Nabi Azad government fiddled with the fundamentals of the scheme crafted by National Conference. As the implementation started, the babus compromised everything to make it a much bigger scandal despite the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) shouting from the rooftop.
Details revealed in the ongoing budget sessions offered certain details, which are mere pointers towards the magnitude of the racket.
In Kashmir, for instance, the government regularized 13732 kanals against a receipt of Rs 54.27 crore. The total number of beneficiaries in Kashmir is only 11247. Interestingly, Rs 52.17 core came from Srinagar city alone where it gave rights to unauthorized occupants on 375 kanals.
Basic arithmetic suggests that J&K government sold this land in Kashmir at an average per kanal cost of Rs 39522. In case of Srinagar, however, the kanal cost Rs 13,91,256.
Table showing the quantum of land and the amount realised from it under Roshni scheme in Kashmir region
Now see what is happening in Jammu region. The details revealed by the government suggest that rights of ownership were given to the people at 1,58,512 kanals of land. This right was in exchange of Rs 22,63,91,110.
What that means in plain arithmetic is: the government sold this land at a throwaway cost of Rs 1428.
Jammu, the winter capital of the state, witnessed transfer of 44912 kanals of land to the encroachers against a receipt of Rs 159701000. That means the land was sold at Rs 3555. Interestingly, Jammu district alone had encroached upon three times more lad than the entire Kashmir region!
Interestingly, this is not the end of Roshni. The government told the assembly that there are many applications for transferring the land to the encroachers, which are pending and unsettled. The government had received 2,53,432 applications seeking ownership rights of state land under the Roshni Act. While 12,9144 applications were rejected, there are around 71,831 applications are pending before the government.
The minister further informed the House that the highest number of applications (18599) that were rejected came from Rajouri district, followed by Jammu at 16435.
The transfer of the land, occupied by the encroachers, took place under Ghulam Nabi Azad led government’s most questionable law, the J&K State Lands (Vesting of ownership rights to the occupants) Act, 2001. Under this law, the government has already disposed off 1,73,000 applications.
“The concerned District Price Fixation Committee approved an area of land measuring 3.48 lakh kanals for an amount of Rs 31762 lakhs which was actually transferred to the occupants out of the total 3.48 lakh kanals approved,” a government response reads. “Nearly 80,000 applications could not be disposed off due to various reasons including those relating to the challenging of the legislation before the Hon’ble High Court and in view of eh observation raised by CAG in its report regarding implementation of the Act, which is under examination of the Public Accounts Committee.”
Roshni was the intervention of the then Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather who said the land under occupation of the people would be sold at market rates to create a Rs 20,000 crore corpus for the power sector. On basis of the scheme, the J&K Bank even created a special loan product to fund the people for acquiring government land under their occupation. However, everything came to a grinding halt as the government almost withdrew the price tag. People say Azad wished to become another Sheikh Abdullah whose land to tiller settlement was historic and game changing. However, it became just a racket.