Roshani Land Scam

The Jammu and Kashmir State Lands vesting of ownership to the occupants) Act was enacted in 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 has been enforced in the State w.e.f. 01-03-2002 vide SRO-94 dated 01-03- 2002 except in Ladakh and Kargil Districts. The researcher then deals with the background of the Roshni act and the various objectives and amendments took place in the Roshni Act. This research paper also deals with the Nai Roshni Scheme.

1.     Introduction:

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

2.     Background of the Roshni Act:

The Roshni Act envisaged the transfer of ownership rights of state land to its occupants, subject to the payment of a cost, as determined by the government. It was enacted by Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah’s government, and it set 1990 as the cutoff for encroachment on state land. The government’s target was to earn Rs 25,000 crore by transferring 20 lakh kanals of state land to existing occupants against payment at market rates. The government said the revenue generated would be spent on commissioning hydroelectric power projects, hence the name “Roshni”. In 2005, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s PDP-Congress government relaxed the cutoff year to 2004. During the tenure of Ghulam Nabi Azad, who replaced Sayeed as Chief Minister under a three-year rotation agreement, the cutoff was relaxed further to 2007. The government also gave ownership rights of agricultural land to farmers occupying it for free, charging them only Rs 100 per kanal as documentation fee.

3.     Objectives of the Roshni Act:

  1. The Roshni Act envisaged the transfer of ownership rights of state land to its occupants, subject to the payment of a cost, as determined by the government.
  1. It set 1990 as the cutoff for encroachment on state land.
  2. The government’s target was to earn Rs 25,000 crore by transferring 20 lakh kanals (one-eighth of an acre) of state land to existing occupants against payment at market rates.
  3. The government said the revenue generated would be spent on commissioning hydroelectric power projects, hence the name “Roshni”.

5.     Amendments in the Roshni Act:

  1. In 2005 the government relaxed the cutoff year to 2004.
  1. Subsequently with new govt coming to power the cutoff was relaxed further to 2007.
  2. The government also gave ownership rights of agricultural land to farmers occupying it for free, charging them only Rs 100 per kanal as documentation fee.

6.     Issues and Allegations:

  1. 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.”
  1. Investigations into the land transfers subsequently found that land in Gulmarg had been given over to ineligible beneficiaries.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

7.     War over Demography:

  1. The decision to repeal the Roshni Act came after demands from a hardline religious group approached the High Court seeking court-monitored investigations into the transfer of land under the Act.
  1. The group assumed it as jihadi war in the form of demographic invasion of Jammu. This led to a social and economic boycott of the Gujjars and Bakerwals.
  2. This was the same group who supported the accused in the gangrape and murder of the 8-year-old Bakerwal girl in January
  3. The Gujjar and Bakerwal groups in Jammu have been upset with the repeal of the Act.
  4. They have said that while the rich and influential managed to grab the benefits, their applications had remained pending.

8.     Nai Roshni Scheme:

8.1  Objectives of the scheme:

  1. Nai Roshni Scheme is a Government welfare scheme launched to empower minority women with knowledge, basic techniques and tools which would help them interact with government banks and other institutions on all levels.
  1. The scheme has been implemented through NGOs, civil societies and government institutions.
  2. Minority women can apply for the scheme online as well.
  3. The scheme helps in fighting different social stigmas such as poverty, as women and children are the worst sufferers of poverty. 
  4. It empowers the minority women to stand up for their rights and help them grow economically thus strengthening civil society.

8.2  Target Group:

  1. Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist, Zoroastrian (Parsi) and Jain women notified under Section 2 (c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 come under the target group.
  2. However, to further increase the strength of the mosaic of plurality in society and bring about solidarity and unity through their own efforts to improve their lot, the scheme permits a mix of women from non-minority communities not exceeding 25% of a project proposal.
  3. Efforts should be made by the organization so that a representative mix of women comes up from SCs/STs/OBCs. Also, women with disabilities and other communities are included within this 25% group.

8.3  Evaluation  of Efficacy of nai Roshni Scheme:

  1. A study was conducted by NITI Aayog to evaluate the impact of the scheme on the minority and to identify the setbacks faced in the implementation of the scheme.
  2. The study covered 15 districts, 30 blocks, 87 villages, 27 NGOs spread over 8 States namely Assam, West Bengal, Punjab, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
  3. According to NITI Aayog, majority of the findings of the study indicate that the programme has been appreciated by a majority of the segments of the population and it has assisted in creating confidence among minority women and in developing leadership spirit in them.
  4. Trained women are utilizing their knowledge to help their families and neighbours in raising their essential demands and claims from various government authorities.

9.     Conclusion:

The Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (vesting of ownership to the occupants) Act 2001- (Roshni Act) with The Jammu and Kashmir state lands (vesting of ownership to the occupants) Rules, 2007. The government had changed by subsequent amendments the original Act to a completely whole different thing so as to forget about the very objective of generating the finance for power projects by introducing heavy discounts and rebates for vesting of ownership to the occupants of state land, which contributed in the failure to accomplish the very objectives desired for in the original Act, So the Act was repealed in 2018 as there were also reports of misuse of some of its provisions to benefit few affluent people.

The J&K State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act commonly known as Roshni Scheme had received the assent of the Governor on November 9, 2001 to give proprietary rights to the persons unauthorizedly holding the State land on payment of the cost equivalent to the prevailing market rate.
The procedural wrangles as also the apprehension that the eviction of the unauthorized occupants will lead to mass unrest formed the base line and the bedrock of the legislation.

Subsequently, the Government vide SRO-64 dated May 5, 2007 made the Rules for mapping of the State land, issuance of the notification, disposal of property left by the unauthorized occupants, the procedure for auction and eviction, determination of market value, vesting of ownership to the occupants of the structures raised over the State land, the fixation of price payable by different categories of occupants, the incentive and penalty for payment etc.

Latterly, the J&K State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) (Repeal and Savings) Act was assented to by the then Governor on December 7, 2018 mentioning that any proceedings pending before any authority under the Act of 2001 shall not be proceeded with and all pending proceedings shall stand abated. But no decision was taken in respect of the land already transferred to large number of people under the garb of Roshni Scheme.

However, after detailed examination of the Act of 2001 and going through various judgements of Supreme Court as well as different High Courts of the country, the J&K Law Commission headed by Justice (Retd) M K Hanjura has recommended retrieval of the land transferred in favour of the illegal beneficiaries under the garb of the Act of 2001.

References:

  1. https://byjus.com/free-ias-prep/nayi-roshni-scheme/
  2. https://blog.ipleaders.in/jammu-kashmir-state-lands-vesting-ownership-occupants-act-2001/amp/
  3. https://iasscore.in/current-affairs/prelims/jammu-and-kashmir-roshni-act
  4. https://www.prepmate.in/daily-news-paper/evaluation-efficacy-nai-roshni-scheme-relevant-gs-prelims-gs-mains-paper-ii/

 

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q.1 How many minorities are there in India?

A ns: The following communities have been notified as minority communities by the Government of India, Ministry of Minority Affairs; 

  • Sikhs
  • Muslims
  • Christians
  • Zoroastrians
  • Buddhists
  • Jains

Q.2 What issues will the NAYI Roshni Scheme resolve?

Ans:    The introduction of this women empowerment scheme will encourage the minority women to move out of the confines of their houses and neighbourhoods and accept leadership roles and assert their rights not only individually but collectively. 

  • The Nai Roshni scheme offers facilities and services that improve their skill and expose them to different opportunities.
  • It will also allow them to claim their share of the development benefits provided by the Government that improves their lives and living conditions.

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