Jammu and Kashmir: Roshni Act

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    13th Dec, 2018

Context

  • The State Administrative Council (SAC) headed by Jammu & Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik repealed the Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001, popularly known as the Roshni Act.
  • The decision to repeal the Roshni Act came after demands from IkkJutt Jammu, a hardline Hindu group.

About

What was Roshni Act?

  • Enacted in 2001, it dealt with transfer of ownership rights of state land to its occupants, subject to the payment of a cost, as determined by the government.
  • Initially, 1990 was set as the cutoff for encroachment on state land. It was later revised to 2004 and then subsequently to 2007.
  • The government’s target was to earn Rs25000 crore by transferring 20 lakh kanals of state land to existing occupants against payment at market rates.
  • Later amendment was made which gave ownership rights of agricultural land to farmers occupying it for free, charging them only Rs100 per kanal as documentation fee.

Why known as Roshni?

  • The government said the revenue generated would be spent on commissioning hydroelectric power projects, hence the name “Roshni”.

Issues and allegations:

  • The reason given to repeal the act was “because it had failed to realise the desired objectives and there were also reports of misuse of some its provisions.”
  • Investigations into the land transfers subsequently found that land in Gulmarg had been given over to ineligible beneficiaries.
  • In 2014, a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) estimated that against the targeted Rs25000 crore, only Rs76 crore had been realised from the transfer of encroached land between 2007 and 2013, thus defeating the purpose of the legislation.
  • The report blamed irregularities including arbitrary reduction in prices fixed by a standing committee, and said this was done to benefit politicians and affluent people.
  • The Vigilance Organisation completed investigations in five cases by March 2015, and indicted nearly two dozen officials, including three former deputy commissioners for allegedly misusing the provisions of the scheme.
  • In November 2018, the High Court restrained all beneficiaries of the Roshni scheme from selling or carrying out any other transaction in respect of the land transferred to them.

What the repeal means?

  • The SAC has ordered cancellation of all pending applications seeking vesting of ownership rights of state lands to their occupants.
  • However, cases where such rights have already been transferred will hold.
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