J&K’s Roshni Act

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  • Right-wing groups in Jammu have described the scheme as being aimed at changing the demography of Jammu region, while mainstream political parties have accused the government of being selective against Muslims.
  • The Jammu & Kashmir administration has recently released a series of lists of alleged beneficiaries of the Roshni Act of 2001, now scrapped, which gave ownership rights to the unauthorised occupants of state land against payment of a premium. 
  • Following a recent order by the Jammu & Kashmir High Court, the administration has annulled the Act (it was earlier repealed prospectively) and decided to retrieve land transferred under the Roshni scheme. 
  • Right-wing groups in Jammu have described the scheme as being aimed at changing the demography of Jammu region, while mainstream political parties have accused the government of being selective against Muslims.

 

Roshni Act

  • Formally the Jammu and Kashmir State Land (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001, it was passed by the then National Conference government led by Farooq Abdullah to give ownership to people in possession of state land, with a cut-off of 1990, and against a payment as determined by the government. 
  • Since the aim was to generate resources for hydroelectric power projects, it was called Roshni (Light) Act.
  • In 2005, the PDP-Congress coalition government led by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed amended the Act to relax the cut-off year from 1990 to 2004. In a later amendment, the Ghulam Nabi Azad government set the premium at 25% of the market rate and the cut-off date at 2007. 
  • The government gave free ownership rights on agricultural land to farmers occupying it, who only needed to pay Rs. 100 per kanal of land as documentation fee.
  • The High Court declared the Roshni Act “illegal, unconstitutional and unsustainable” and held allotments under the Act as void ab initio. 
  • It ordered a CBI probe into transfer of ownership, sought action against bureaucrats involved, and asked the government to make public the names of prominent people allotted land. 
  • In lists of beneficiaries made public so far, names of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen were enumerated with parents’ names, residence, job profile and affiliation. For others, only names and parents’ names were specified.
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