Switching off Roshni
Governor Satya Pal Malik surprised many on Wednesday when the State Administrative Council (SAC) approved the repeal of the Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001, (commonly known as Roshni scheme).
By rescinding the act 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 However, the SAC directed that any action taken under the provisions of the repealed Act shall not be invalid.
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 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.
However, the way the scheme was rolled out and executed it seemed that it was a well planned and organised scam. The Roshini scheme involved 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.
The auditing of around 547 cases for 666 Kanals of non-agriculture land showed 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 SAC has taken a good decision as the scheme did not benefit those for whom it was actually meant. The scheme on the contrary proved lucrative for few highly connected politicians and their kits and kin.
This is evident from the fact that the government handed over land to the occupants but there was no revenue realization. Now that the scheme has been rescinded, the government should also hold an enquiry and name and shame those who organised this planned loot.