Farooq Abdullah’s Sister, Hoteliers Among 130 People Who Availed Land under Scrapped Roshni Act

Srinagar: National Conference president Farooq Abdullah’s sister and two prominent hoteliers, including a Congress leader, figure in the second list of 130 people who have availed land under now-scrapped Roshni Act. According to the fresh list uploaded on the website of Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, majority of the beneficiaries, including a former bureaucrat and his wife, legalised their residential places under the scheme, while there are also names of dozens of businessmen who have got the ownership of their commercial buildings.

This is the second list of beneficiaries issued by the divisional administration in accordance with the October 9 directive of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court which has declared Roshni Act “illegal, unconstitutional and unsustainable” and ordered a CBI probe into the allotment of the land under this law. The administration uploaded a list of 35 beneficiaries which included former finance minister Haseeb Drabu, some of his relatives and top hoteliers and a former bureaucrat earlier.

The second list included names of Congress leader KK Amla and Mushtaq Ahmad Chaya, both prominent businessmen and hoteliers besides former bureaucrat Mohammad Shafi Pandit and his wife. Suriya Abdullah, sister of Farooq Abdullah, was also named among the beneficiaries who got ownership of an over three kanal plot under residential use.

According to the list, the land had been approved by the authorities but she was yet to pay Rs 1 crore fees. No notice had also been issued to her since the time of approving the land in her name. On November 1, the Union Territory administration cancelled all land transfers that took place under the JK State Land (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001 – also known as the Roshni Act – under which 2.5 lakh acres of land was to be transferred to the existing occupants.

The principal secretary and revenue department have been asked to work out a plan to retrieve large tracts of state land vested under the Act. According to the high court order, a total of 6,04,602 kanals (75,575 acres) of state land had been regularised and transferred to the occupants. This included 5,71,210 kanals (71,401 acres) in Jammu and 33,392 kanals (4174 acres) in the Kashmir province. “Principal Secretary to Government, Revenue Department shall also work out the modalities and plan to evict encroachers from such State Land and retrieve the State land within a period of six months. Principal Secretary to Government, Revenue Department shall work out modalities for handling the money received for these lands after annulment,” the JK government had said in a statement.

According to the order, complete identities of influential persons, including ministers, legislators, bureaucrats, government officials, police officers and businessmen, their relatives or persons holding benami for them, who have derived benefit under the Roshni Act, will be made public within a period of one month. The Roshni 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. It initially envisaged conferment of proprietary rights of around 20.55 lakh kanals (102750 hectares) to the occupants of which only 15.85 per cent land was approved for vesting of ownership rights.

The scheme was finally repealed by the then governor Satya Pal Malik on November 28, 2018. Amid reports about its widespread misuse, the entire legislation was challenged before the high court which stayed the proceedings under the Act and also directed that neither the occupants having been conferred upon the ownership rights shall sell these lands nor can raise constructions on such lands.

In 2014, however, the Comptroller and Auditor General had estimated that only Rs 76 crore had been raised from the transfer of encroached land between 2007 and 2013.

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