SAC rescinds controversial Roshni scheme
JAMMU: In a major decision that is bound to raise a political storm in the state, the State Administrative Council (SAC) approved repeal of the Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001, (commonly known as Roshni scheme).
The decision was taken on Wednesday during a meeting of the SAC which met here under the chairmanship of Governor, Satya Pal Malik. Advisors B B Vyas, K Vijay Kumar, Khurshid Ahmad Ganai and K K Sharma, Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam and Principal Secretary to the Governor, Umang Narula attended the meeting.
“All pending proceedings under the Act shall stand cancelled immediately and abate. However, the SAC directed that any action taken under the provisions of the repealed Act shall not be invalid,” an official spokesman quoting the SAC decision said.
Notably, the Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001 was enacted in the year 2001 with the twin objective of generating resources for financing power projects and conferment of proprietary rights to the occupants of the State Land.
The Act popularly called as Roshni Scheme was believed to be a revolutionary step in the annals of history in Jammu and Kashmir after the Agrarian Reforms Act. It was hoped that the legislation would help to boost the farming sector and in turn generate substantial revenue for funding power projects across the State. The rules under the Act were also notified.
The provisions of the Act, applications for conferment of ownership rights were to be filed upto 31st March 2007. Any application filed after the said date was not to be considered under the provisions of the Act. This would lead to the inference that the provisions of the Act had actually become inoperable viz-a-viz conferment of ownership rights on the State Land after 31st March 2007.
The Scheme initially envisaged conferment of proprietary rights of around 20.55 lakh Kanals to the occupants of which only 15.85% land was approved for vesting of ownership rights. Against the expected/anticipated revenue from such occupants, the revenue actually generated has been meager thereby failing to realize the objective of the Scheme. There have also been reports about the misuse of some provisions of legislation.
It is significant to highlight that the entire legislation was challenged before the High Court of J&K, in a Public Interest Litigation titled Ankur Sharma V/s State, wherein the High Court besides staying the proceedings under the said Act also directed that neither the occupants having been conferred upon the ownership rights shall sell these lands nor can raise constructions on such lands.
The said PIL is pending before the High Court. The court has also directed that no further transaction of any kind in respect of the property covered under the Roshni Act shall be affected till further orders of the court.
After careful consideration of all pros and cons of the Scheme, SAC concluded that the Scheme has not served the desired purpose and is no longer relevant in the present context.
The Roshini scheme
The Roshini scheme bill was passed by the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly on February 10, 2007 as the bill aimed at giving free of cost ownership rights to 16.60 lakh kanals of State land under the occupation of farmers in Jammu and Kashmir. The State Government described the legislation as revolutionary on the lines of the famous land reforms ushered in by Sheikh Abdullah inspired by the Leftist school of thought.
The then Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad who moved the Bill with amendment in the House said that a nominal fee of Rs. 100 per kanal had to be paid by the occupant farmers for getting mutation in their favour in the revenue records.
He said the Bill would go as yet another revolutionary step in the annals of history in Jammu and Kashmir after the Land to Tiller Act. The Chief Minister termed the Bill a farmer-friendly gesture of the Government and would help in a big way to give boost to farming sector.
Describing agriculture as the backbone of the State economy, the Chief Minister said unless farming community was socially and economically well-off, boosting farm produce to cater to the requirements of the State was not possible.
He said giving ownership rights to farmers under occupation of State land for agricultural purposes free of cost was a decision of far-reaching positive impact on the overall agriculture scenario and the step of the Government to this effect would always be recognised as a revolutionary one.
The act ‘turned out to be a scam’
The Roshini scheme involves the biggest ever land scam in Jammu and Kashmir, with the State losing about Rs 25000 crore.
The scheme turned out to be a total flop as against the expected Rs 25000 crore revenue, the government recovered less than Rs 100 crore. The projected revenue estimates were made in Nov 2006 against Rs 20 lakh Kanal land identified for vesting ownership rights, but these were never realised.
The rules framed by the government under which, agriculture land was to be transferred free of cost, were against the Act. As per the Act the revenue generated from the scheme was to be used for developing power projects, while the government rules subverted its provisions by exempting any charges on the agriculture land at the time of vesting of ownership rights to the claimants, hitting the revenue generation.
Even in case of non-agriculture land the revenue targets could not be met as in majority of cases the beneficiaries were given rebate in the set price.
However, after auditing around 547 cases for 666 Kanal of non-agriculture land. It was found that in most of the cases the committees had given rebate against the fixed prices in the name of educational trusts and many other planks.
Initially the government had identified 3.5 lakh Kanal land for allotting to the beneficiaries for which the Revenue department had claimed that it will recover Rs 355 crore but only Rs 76 crore were recovered.
The amendment made in the Act in 2004, deleting the clause restricting the ownership rights only for the land in possession since 1990, gave leverage to many people to encroach land and get ownership rights for the same.
According to the government figures in Nov 2006, there was about 20 lakh Kanal State land in the possession of encroachers, valuing about Rs 25500 crore and the government is still relying on these figures despite the fact that much more land was encroached after the 2004 amendment.