The Jammu and Kashmir Administrative Council has amended the Jammu and Kashmir Development Act, paving the way for notifying “strategic areas” for the armed forces in the Union Territory. The proposed amendments would regulate construction in these areas “through a special dispensation”.
“The Administrative Council gave its nod to the proposal of amending the Control of Building Operations Act 1988 and the J&K Development Act, 1970 to provide for special dispensation for carrying out construction activities in strategic areas,” an official release said.
“The amendments will pave way for notifying certain areas as strategic areas in terms of requirement of armed forces and in such areas; the regulation of construction activity shall be through a special dispensation.”
Sources said the amendments empower the government to define and notify a strategic area and that once a strategic area is notified, the existing authority would be replaced by a new authority on the pattern of the cantonment boards.
“For example, we have at least two ecologically fragile and tourist areas where armed forces have a huge presence,” a senior official told The Indian Express. “If these areas are declared strategic areas, tourism development authorities would lose the power and it would be given to a new authority. This authority would decide on construction in these areas.”
The release said the decision to amend the Act would facilitate construction of strategic infrastructure.
“The approval has been granted keeping in view the strategic importance of certain locations and reconciling their security needs with developmental aspirations.”
A senior official said that while the amendment allows the government to notify strategic areas, the new set of rules for such areas is still being worked out.
Mainstream parties have slammed the move.
“This is scarier than the scrapping of special status. It seems we might not be left with enough land even for graveyards… It means no resident of Jammu and Kashmir has any power in determining even the basic functions of local government,” PDP leader Naeem Akhtar told The Indian Express.
The National Conference has demanded an immediate rollback of the decisions by the administrative council. The party’s chief spokesperson Aga Roohullah said, “Now everything is decided in New Delhi against the wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Every step they have taken since August last year has been anti-Jammu and Kashmir.”