The Comptroller and Auditor General has estimated a Rs 25,000-crore land transfer scam in Jammu and Kashmir, under the much-hyped Roshni scheme, making it the biggest ever such scandal in the state.
The scheme, under the Jammu Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001, was meant to raise nearly
Rs 25,448 crore to finance power projects by selling over 20.64 lakh kanals of state land under unauthorised occupation. In a report tabled in the Assembly, CAG has alleged irregularities in the transfer of the encroached land to occupants from 2007 to 2013, saying only Rs 76 crore had been realised, defeating the purpose of the legislation.
Given that around
Rs 25,000 crore was estimated to have been the cost of such land worked out by then government while enacting the Act, the present value would be much more, said Principal Accountant General (Audit) Subash Chandra Pandey on Saturday.
According to CAG, among the beneficiaries of the illegal and irregular deals under the Act were the National Conference’s Nawai Subah Trust and the Congress’s Khidmat Trust. While 7 kanal, 15 marlas and 84 sq ft of land were transferred to Khidmat Trust, 3 kanal and 16 marlas were given to Nawai Subah at Zero Bridge in Srinagar.
This land, that was under commercial use, was transferred to the two trusts at concessional rate applicable to land under institutional use. The statutory committee under the Act fixed market rate of the land at Rs 1.10 crore per kanal in case of the Khidmat Trust and Rs 1.20 crore per kanal in the case of the Nawai Subah Trust. Both were given 85 per cent rebate, with land valued at Rs 13.10 crore transferred for only Rs 1.97 crore. This amount too was not recovered, with only Rs 1.47 crore collected so far.
There had been substantiative deviation from provisions of the Act by successive governments who provided concessions and rebates to benefit encroachers, Pandey said.
State Revenue Minister Ajaz Ahmad Khan described the CAG findings as motivated. The timing of the Accountant General’s press conference, pointing fingers at the implementation of a flagship scheme of the previous government at the time of elections, raises doubts, he said.
The state government will, however, study the CAG findings and initiate action wherever any provisions of the Roshni scheme or the rules were found to have been violated, Khan said.
The Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001, or the Roshni Act, was enacted by the Farooq Abdullah-led National Conference government and came into effect on March 1, 2002. However, it was amended by successive Mufti Sayeed and Ghulam Nabi Azad governments in 2004 and 2007.
In March 2006, the government estimated the total state land at 1,25,03,973 kanals, of which 20,64,972 kanals, valued at Rs 25,448 crore, was under encroachment.
The ruling National Conference has accused Azad of burying the Roshni scheme. The Azad-led Congress-PDP government amended the scheme from time to time to bring its own people under its purview and when they benefited, gave it a burial, said National Conference secretary general Dr Sheikh Mustafa Kamal, the younger brother of Union minister Farooq Abdullah.
When asked about the transfer of land at concessional rates to Nawai Subah Trust, on which are built a shopping complex and also the headquarters of the National Conference, Kamal said that this was built nearly four decades ago. “Whatever price the Azad government fixed and asked us to pay, we paid it,” he added.
The land transferred to the Khidmat Trust has the state Congress headquarters over it, besides other commercial establishments.
State Congress spokesman Ravinder Sharma, however, said the party had no control over the Trust.
Concluding its findings, CAG said that while the principal objective of the Roshni Act was to raise resources for investment in the power sector, this could not be achieved even as 3,40,091 kanals, categorised as agicultural, were transferred to encroachers free of cost. On the other hand, even after the transfer of 3,48,160 kanals of state land to its occupants, new encroachments were continuing unabated.