JAMMU: Despite the assurances from Lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha that new land grant rules are progressive and framed giving priority to the interest of people of Jammu and Kashmir, the concerns are pouring in from political parties in opposition and various stakeholders across the union territory.
Jammu and Kashmir government earlier this week notified the new Land Grant Rules-2022, bringing the tourism development authorities under the new rules, besides terminating all ongoing leases on land granted under the now repealed Land Grants Rules-1960.
The administration has expanded the leasing rules significantly in terms of territorial jurisdiction across the whole of Jammu and Kashmir, has removed the upper cap on land area, and has widened the purposes for which land could be leased, besides deciding to put all land packets to be leased, including the terminated ones, to on-line auction.
The new leases will be granted for a period of 40 years, against 99 years previously, except in certain special circumstances. It may also be mentioned here that the original 1960 Land Grants Rules were applicable with a radius of 13 Kilometers from Purani Mandi in Jammu and 16 from Shergarhi in Srinagar and all other Town Areas and Notified Areas.
While the political parties in Jammu and Kashmir opposed the new rules, terming them a ploy to arbitrarily evict locals on leased land, apprehensions are also aplenty among the industrial unit holders in the union territory, who largely view these rules as an endgame for their livelihood, and that of thousands of people employed by them.
The Dispatch reached out to Commissioner Secretary, Revenue Department, Vijay Bidhuri and Principal Secretary, Industries and Commerce Department, Prashant Goel, for their comments, but didn’t get any response. Anoo Malhotra, Director, Industries & Commerce, Jammu is out of the country till December 17. Raman Kumar Kesar, Managing Director, SIDCO, said he had just joined and had no knowledge on the matter.
Lalit Mahajan, president of the Bari Brahmana Industries Association (BBIA) feared that the new land grant rules might very well mean the death of the industrial sector in Jammu and Kashmir.
“While the government should have given the industrial units, generating employment for tens of thousands of people, free hold of the leased land, they are now going to take the land back from us,” said a worried Mahajan.
“An industry takes at least 2 decades to break even and start making profit. With the new leases being granted for a maximum period of 40 years, the industries might as well shut down and cut their losses,” he said, and sought clarification from the government.
The Dispatch reached out to retired IAS officer, Bashir Ahmad Runyal, former Commissioner/Secretary, Revenue Department for his expert comments.
Runyal said that the fears of the industrialists, regarding the current, subsisting leases are unfounded for they were not granted under the repealed Land Grant Rules-1960; however, the new industrial units, if brought under land grant rules-2022, might face difficulties.
“The land to industries was leased out under the J&K industrial policy framed in 1995, and amended from time to time in 1998, 2004, and 2016, the latest being J&K Industrial Land Allotment Policy-2021. So these leases, wherever legal and valid, are not going to be impacted by the new land grant rules-2022,” Runyal told The Dispatch.
However, if the new industrial units are brought under these rules, then the industrialists have a lot to worry, primarily because of the duration of lease shortened to 40 years now, said Runyal, echoing the apprehensions of Mahajan.
J&K’s new Land Grant Rules: Also applicable to tourism sector; old leases terminated, new for 40 years max, through online auction
In Valley, the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce & Industry (Inc) Thursday evening held an interactive meeting with various Trade Associations, Hoteliers, Restaurant Owners and other stakeholders regarding the new Land Grant Rules.
The stakeholders expressed their anguish regarding the order and spoke about its adverse impact on livelihood and employability of the people in J&K, in the meeting.
Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad, president KCC&I said that he will take up the matter with Government at the highest level.
Former Industries and Commerce Minister and senior BJP leader Surjit Singh Salathia told the Dispatch that Industries are the backbone of J&K economy and the government will ensure that no harm is caused to the industries of Jammu and Kashmir.
While Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha hailed the new land grant rules as progressive, and aimed at making ‘things easy for average citizens’, the political parties in J&K, sans the BJP, have criticised the new rules.
National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah called the rules “very unfortunate”, and a ploy to evict locals from the leased land and bring in outsiders.
“The motive of eviction is only to bring people from outside. The right of those living here already to get land is supreme. First give the land to those who are its residents, who live here already, and who have run the institutions here in difficult times,” said the former chief minister.
These people have kept these institutions, structures and businesses alive in difficult times and they should be given the chance to renew their leases. Fix the rate and tell them to submit the money, he said.
“If you want to bring new people from outside, sure, do it but make new projects for them. Identify new areas; there are so many areas, which can be brought to the tourist map. There are so many beautiful areas which are undeveloped, hand over those to them; build roads, hotels and ski resorts,” he said.
PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti said that the land held by locals is being snatched to be given to outsiders.
“There have been incursions by China in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, and they not only grabbed land but even manhandled our jawans, BJP has no answer to it, but they want to commit tyranny on the people of J&K, grab our resources and now our land,” she said.
She said that the new rules were an opposite to NC founder and former chief minister Sheikh Abdullah’s ‘land to the tiller’ law.
“Now,those who have gotten land under lease, farmers, hoteliers and business people, are being told to vacate land and the authorities would like to do whatever they want. I think this is the biggest fraud and deception against people that they call us ‘our citizens’ and ‘integral part’ but are snatching their land, while China has occupied our land and they have no answer to that,” she said.
Former minister and PDP leader Naeem Akhtar also took a jibe at government on the new land grant rules.
Reacting to a news report on BJP MP Maharaja Sanajaoba Leishembaw’s remark in Rajya Sabha that India was losing territory along the Manipur-Myanmar border due to faulty border pillars, Akhtar said, “No problems. We are compensating it with new land grant rules in JK.”
Sajad Gani Lone, President of People’s Conference said that the new Land Policy is not at par with the rest of the Country, and may start the dark chapter for Jammu and Kashmir, blatantly othering the UT residents.
“Lease rules across the world and in India are fairly simple and on similar lines, but these are different and without motives enshrined in the new Land Policy,” said Lone.
“But these (new land grant rules) are different and not without motives,” he added.
Apni Party President Altaf Bukhari described the New Land Policy as “draconian” and “totally inhuman”, saying it will not be allowed to be implemented.
“These land laws are draconian. Nowhere in the world are people removed from possession,” Bukhari told reporters .
He said the lease holders mainly have commercial establishments and if their leases have expired and have not been extended, then it is not their mistake.
“These laws cannot be implemented, it cannot stand the scrutiny of law. It is totally inhuman … The Apni Party will not allow these draconian laws to be implemented,” he said.
Reacting to the criticism, J&K BJP spokesperson Altaf Thakur said, “NC vice-president Omar Abdullah and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti are opposing the move as they will no longer be able to favour their ‘blue-eyed persons’, relatives, and those who could fill their coffers. Genuine persons, including the youth, will benefit from the land lease. There is no room for politics of betrayal.”