The Jammu and Kashmir administration’s move to amend the J&K Development Act has been met with an uproar in the Valley, prompting it to issue a series of clarifications on Sunday citing “misinformation”. The amendment paves the way for the administration to define and notify “strategic areas” for armed forces in the Union Territory.
“Some misgivings have been expressed in the media regarding the decision (on strategic areas). A few political parties are deliberately misleading people as if land is being transferred to the Armed Forces and the entire J&K is being turned into a military establishment,” an official release said on Sunday.
The administration said the amendment has “nothing to do with the transfer of any land” to the Armed Forces.
“The transfer, both acquisition or requisition, continues to be governed by the existing law and the norms on the subject. There is no decision to either transfer any new land or declare areas outside cantonments or army land as strategic,” the release said. “In fact, it is the stated policy of the Government to regulate and harmonise the requirement of land by the Armed forces to meet the competing demands of development and internal security”.
The administration said it has admitted that the powers for construction activity in the strategic areas have been delegated to army. “It simply means that in the so-called notified ‘Strategic Areas’, within existing Armed Forces land, the responsibility of ensuring that construction activities are undertaken as per the Developmental Control Regulation of the Master Plan and all environmental safeguards are observed, has been delegated to the Armed Forces themselves,” the explanation said.
The official release further said that the power to request an area to be declared as strategic area would lie with an officer of the rank of Corps Commander or above. “Adequate safeguards have been kept to ensure that the provisions are not misused,” the release said. “…the Government will satisfy itself about the reasons cited for declaring the areas as Strategic Area,” it said.
Mainstream political parties have claimed the government move disempowers the civilian authority and demanded its immediate rollback.