Farmers to get compensation for land ahead of fencing: Mufti

Army seeks re-notification of firing ranges

Sanjeev Pargal

Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed presiding over Civil Military Liaison conference in Srinagar on Tuesday.
Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed presiding over Civil Military Liaison conference in Srinagar on Tuesday.

JAMMU, Sept 29: Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed today announced joint survey by civil and Army authorities of the land falling ahead of the Line of Control (LoC) and International Border (IB) for recommending cases of the land owners for compensation to the Central Government even as Army reiterated its demand very strongly for allotment of land for firing ranges in place of Tosa Maidan and Kaleeth, whose lease was not renewed by the previous Government.
Sayeed announced the joint survey during Civil-Military Liaison (CML) conference held at SKICC Srinagar after nearly two years today and was attended by entire top brass of civil administration and Army Commanders including all four GOCs falling under the Northern Command.
The Army Commanders have sought re-notification of Kaleeth firing range in Akhnoor, Bajpathri in Kashmir instead of Tosa Maidan, Mandal Thang in Leh and Lower Khurbathong in Kargil on the ground that the troops were finding it difficult to carry out their practices in the absence of adequate firing ranges. The Government didn’t seem to be averse to re-notify Kalith, Mandal Thang and Khurhuthang in Kargil, the lease of all of which has expired with riders but it was non-committal on Thambri (Bajpathri) land so far in place of Tosa Maidan, whose lease had expired on April 18, 2014.
The Army Commanders pointed out that de-notification of Mahe Field Range at Mandal Thang in Leh has become serious issue for the Army as it was badly affecting troops training in Leh, which was a sensitive zone following Chinese transgressions. Similar was the case with Lower Khurhuthang firing range in Kargil, whose lease had expired in November 2013.
Official sources told the Excelsior that the Government was not averse to re-notification of firing ranges in Kalith (Akhnoor), Dinga Amb (Hiranagar), Khurbathong (Kargil) and Mahe (Mandal Thang) in Leh with riders but it made no commitment on Thambri (Bajpathri), where civil and Army authorities had conducted joint survey for allotment of land for Field Firing Range on the land falling under the jurisdiction of PHE and Forest Departments.
Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh wanted that the Army should be given land for firing ranges wherever they want but requested the Army Commanders  to ensure that bullets didn’t fall in civilian areas from Dinga Amb (Hiranagar) and other firing ranges as people of some villages were suffering as bullets often land in the civilian areas. The Army assured that this will not happen again.
Sources said the Army Commanders assured the Chief Minister, who holds charge of Home Department that they will clear mines from the forward areas along LoC except the places, where they were required for operational reasons.
On Lower Khurbathong land issue in Kargil, the Conference decided that a high level Committee of Army, Air Force and Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Kargil be constituted to hold deliberations with stakeholders and give final recommendations to the State Government within shortest possible time. It may be mentioned here that with a view to de-congest Kargil town, the LAHDC Kargil has planned development of new Housing Colony at Lower Khurbathang, which is currently held by Army.
On the issue of 1,82,865 kanals of land with Army in Ladakh, the Conference decided that Army and civil administration will reconcile figures for future course of action on the issue.
“The Army and civil administration will set up joint Panel very soon and conduct detailed survey of the land of farmers, which has come ahead of fencing both along LoC and IB including the land, which has been mined. After the survey, a report will be presented to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for granting compensation to the people,” the Chief Minister said in the meeting.
This was the long pending issue of the people for near one and half decades as their land had come ahead of fencing or in the mining area but they hadn’t been paid any compensation for this.
Sources said Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh raised the issue in the Conference after which the Chief Minister called for immediate holding of the survey of the land and submitting report to the Centre for compensation. The MoD had to compensate the farmers of LoC, whose land has been taken for fencing while the MHA has to make payment to the farmer living on the IB. The issue of compensation had repeatedly been raised in the Parliament and the State Assembly but previous Government had always turned deaf ear to the demand.
Sources said Mufti Sayeed was of the view that role of the Army should be mostly confined to the borders as they have played their role in the hinterland, which should now be left to the political leadership. “It’s now time for the political leadership to play its role,” he remarked. The Government wanted Army presence to be thinned in the civilian areas, a proposal to which the Army had no objection.
According to sources, the Chief Minister informed the Army Commanders that 138 kanals and 12 marlas of land has been approved in favour of Army in lieu of the land required for expansion of Jammu Airport at Chatha, Satwari.
Army said it will hand over the land at Jammu Airport for its expansion provided that the land was given to it at Sunjwan without changing the title. Army was now formally awaiting sanction of the MoD for vacating Airport land.
In another significant decision, the Western Command of the Army, under whose jurisdiction the three districts of Jammu, Samba and Kathua fall, gave a categorical assurance to vacate the land for expansion of Jammu University and the Government ordered the authorities to find out substitute for the Army.
Sources said the process for vacation of land would start within the next three months. GOC-in-C Western Command Lt Gen KJ Singh, who was not present in the Conference, had recently assured Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh on vacation of the land for expansion of Jammu University.
“The Army has agreed in principle to provide the land, north of road adjoining the campus, for expansion of Jammu University precincts. A Committee will be constituted to work out modalities for transfer of the land.,” sources said, adding the Chief Minister directed the Divisional Commissioner, Jammu Pawan Kotwal to identify an alternate patch of land for the Army in lieu of the Jammu University land within the three months.
Complimenting the Army for their role in securing borders and safeguarding lives of the people, Sayeed referred to ‘Agenda of the Alliance’ of the PDP-BJP Government and referred to its important component, which is resolution of issues regarding vacation/regularization of land and payment of rentals amicably between Army and civil administration in time bound manner. He said situation in Jammu and Kashmir has undergone perceptible change and lauded Army for this.
An official handout said while deliberating upon the issue of vacation of Tattoo Ground, Batmaloo, in the heart of the summer capital, Mufti Sayeed indicated delinking it from all other issues and stressed upon expediting vacation of Tatoo Ground. This, he said, will enable the Government to develop basic facilities at Tatoo Ground in the interest of general public.
The meeting also took a decision to expedite the issue pertaining to land at High Ground, Anantnag, which is held by the Army, for which a timeline of three months has been fixed.
The Chief Minister observed that the land at High Ground is required for expansion of University of Kashmir’s South Campus as well as developing a new housing colony to de-congest the town.
On the issue of land held by the Army at Gulmarg, it was decided that the high-level Committee constituted in the matter will expedite modalities to settle the issue.
On construction of various roads in Budgam, Kupwara, Poonch and other districts, it was mutually decided to expedite work so that connectivity to far-flung habitations is provided on priority. These roads include Shunglipora to Sochalpathri and Srinagar Airfield to Gudsathoo in Budgam district, Thajal to Churanda, in Baramulla, Parrah to Amrohi in Kupwara, Sonamarg Bypass in Ganderbal and Kulali to Hill Kaka in Poonch.
The Chief Minister was informed that Army is also examining the 91-kanal land referenced for re-alignment to pave way for providing connectivity between SIDCO Phase I & II of its Industrial Growth Centre.
Keeping in view the significance of Batote-Kishtwar-Sinthan Road, the Chief Minister called upon Border Roads Organization (BRO) to maintain the vital stretch for improved connectivity.
The issue of notification and re-notification of field firing ranges were also discussed threadbare in the meeting.
The Conference was also attended by Chief Secretary, B. R. Sharma, Director General of Police, K. Rajendra, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, B. B. Vyas, Principal Secretary, Home, R. K. Goyal, Principal Secretary Forest, Rakesh Kumar Gupta, Principal Secretary Power, Sandeep Nayak, Commissioner / Secretary R&B, Rohit Kansal, Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Asgar Samoon, Divisional Commissioner, Jammu, Dr. Pawan Kotwal, Commissioner / Secretary, Relief & Rehabilitation, Dheeraj Gupta, Secretary Revenue, Mohammad Afzal Bhat, Director General, Information and PR, Zaffar Ahmad, Secretary Tourism, Farooq Ahmad Shah and Secretary Transport, Kifayat Rizvi.
From the Army side, the Conference was attended by GoC-in-C Northern Command, Lt. Gen D. S. Hooda, Chief of Staff, Northern Command, N. P. S. Hira, GoC 9 Corps, Lt. Gen Rajeev Tiwari, GoC 14 Corps, Lt. Gen. Shravan Kumar Patyal, GoC 16 Corps, Lt. Gen. R. R. Nimbhorkar, GoC 15 Corps, Lt. Gen. S. K. Dua, Major General of Operational Logistics, Headquarters, Northern Command, Maj. Gen. V. K. Yadav, Major General in-Charge Administration, Headquarters, Northern Command, Maj. Gen J. S. Sandhu, Major General, General Staff (Staff Duty & War Establishment), Headquarters, Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Sanjay Verma, Air Officer Commanding, J&K, Upkarjit Singh, GoC, 31 Sub Area, Maj. Gen. A. K. Das, Brigadier Combatant Engineer, Headquarters Northern Command, Brig. G.K Swamy, besides other senior officers.

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