Settlement operation, preservation of land record still going on at snail’s pace in J&K

Govt fails to empower Regional Directors despite lapse of 5 yrs
No focus on overcoming manpower deficit created in 2014

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Sept 4: The land settlement operation, which was set into motion in Jammu and Kashmir several decades back, is still going on at snail’s pace and no time-frame can be specified for its completion as the Government has failed to empower Regional Directors of Land Records and Surveys, the posts which were created with the sole objective of giving necessary impetus to this exercise over five years back.
This has clearly established that there is no attention at any level in the Government to make the land record straight in order to avoid scams and litigations, which otherwise are at alarming level in the length and breadth of the State.
Official sources told EXCELSIOR that as there was not a bit of progress on the land settlement exercise, which was started several decades ago, the State Government in the month of August 2013 gave nod to the reorganization of the Settlement Organization and accordingly seven posts of Regional Directors of Land Records and Surveys were created with the sole objective of giving necessary impetus to the settlement exercise across the State and to coordinate modernization of land record under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme.
In Jammu four posts of Regional Directors were created one each for Jammu-Samba-Kathua districts, Rajouri-Poonch districts, Doda-Kishtwar-Ramban districts and Udhampur-Reasi districts. Similarly, three such posts were created in Kashmir valley—one each for Baramulla-Bandipora-Kupwara districts, Srinagar-Budgam-Ganderbal districts and Anantnag-Kulgam-Shopian-Pulwama districts. For Leh and Kargil districts, respective Additional Deputy Commissioners were designated as Regional Directors to look after the settlement operation.
However, before these Regional Directors could start giving necessary impetus to the land settlement exercise, they were divested of the manpower in 2014 by diverting the same to make functional the newly created administrative units.
“Since then all the Regional Directors are functioning with skeleton manpower that too after making internal arrangements. Interestingly, these Regional Directors have not been provided own infrastructure in the shape of office complex, residential quarters, sufficient funds and other paraphernalia”, sources said.
They further said, “instead of empowering the Regional Directors for having jurisdiction more than that of the Collector of any district in the State, the Government has intentionally rendered these posts as insignificant”, adding “for want of required facilities and manpower at their disposal all the Regional Directors are dependent on other agencies and are finding it difficult to perform the duties highlighted at the time of creation of these posts”.
Further non-seriousness of the Government can be gauged from the fact that these posts remain vacant for several months thereby hampering the settlement operation and extension of necessary assistance to the agency engaged for modernization of land record, sources said while disclosing that at present the posts of Regional Directors of Land Records and Surveys of Rajouri-Poonch and Srinagar-Budgam-Ganderbal districts are lying vacant and the Regional Director of Doda-Kishtwar-Ramban has been given the additional charge of the Additional District Development Commissioner of one district.
“It is pity that instead of empowering the Regional Directors the Government has created an impression that these posts are meant for giving punishment posting to any officer as such nobody wants to stay on these posts for longer period of time”, they further said, adding as the Government has failed to understand the importance of these posts the settlement operation has failed to gain required momentum till date and nobody knows whether this exercise will ever come to an end.
“The non-serious approach towards settlement exercise has also created an impression that Government doesn’t want to bring an end to land scams and litigations, which otherwise remain at alarming level in the length and breadth of State”, they said, adding “no doubt administration under Governor’s Rule has laid enough focus on anti-encroachment drives but it should also pay required attention towards gearing up settlement operation and modernization of land records by empowering Regional Directors, which is the only remedy to check encroachments in future”.
When contacted, an officer associated with the settlement operation confirmed that Special Task Force was required to be placed at the disposal of each Regional Director so that they are able to do justice with the task assigned to them. “A proposal in this regard is being formulated and will be shortly placed before the Government for approval”, he added.