Explained: J&K Roshni Act

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Mains Paper 2: Polity | Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Roshni Act

Mains level: Governance challenges in J&K


News

  • The State Administrative Council (SAC) headed by J&K Governor has repealed the J&K State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001, popularly known as the Roshni Act.
  • This was so because it failed to realize the desired objectives and there were also reports of misuse of some its provisions.

What was mandated in the Act?

  1. The Roshni Act envisaged the transfer of ownership rights of state land to its occupants, subject to the payment of a cost, as determined by the government.
  2. It set 1990 as the cutoff for encroachment on state land.
  3. The government’s target was to earn Rs 25,000 crore by transferring 20 lakh kanals (one-eighth of an acre) of state land to existing occupants against payment at market rates.
  4. The government said the revenue generated would be spent on commissioning hydroelectric power projects, hence the name “Roshni”.

Amendments

  1. In 2005 the government relaxed the cutoff year to 2004.
  2. Subsequently with new govt coming to power the cutoff was relaxed further to 2007.
  3. The government also gave ownership rights of agricultural land to farmers occupying it for free, charging them only Rs 100 per kanal as documentation fee.

Allegations and Controversies

  1. Investigations into the land transfers subsequently found that land in Gulmarg had been given over to ineligible beneficiaries.
  2. However several government officials illegally possessed and vested ownership of state land to occupants who did not satisfy criteria under the Roshni Act.
  3. A report by the CAG estimated that against the targeted Rs 25,000 crore, only Rs 76 crore had been realized from the transfer of encroached land between 2007 and 2013, thus defeating the purpose of the legislation.
  4. The report blamed irregularities including arbitrary reduction in prices fixed by a standing committee, and said this was done to benefit politicians and affluent people.
  5. In November 2018, the High Court restrained all beneficiaries of the Roshni scheme from selling or carrying out any other transaction in respect of the land transferred to them.

War over Demography

  1. The decision to repeal the Roshni Act came after demands from a hardline religious group approached the High Court seeking court-monitored investigations into the transfer of land under the Act.
  2. The group assumed it as jihadi war in the form of demographic invasion of Jammu. This led to a social and economic boycott of the Gujjars and Bakerwals.
  3. This was the same group who supported the accused in the gangrape and murder of the 8-year-old Bakerwal girl in January
  4. The Gujjar and Bakerwal groups in Jammu have been upset with the repeal of the Act.
  5. They have said that while the rich and influential managed to grab the benefits, their applications had remained pending.
J&K – The issues around the state
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