For first time, J&K to have comprehensive R&R Policy for projects affected populace

Final draft ready, to be placed before SAC shortly for approval

Mohinder Verma

JAMMU, Dec 24: For the first time, Jammu and Kashmir is going to have a comprehensive Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R) Policy for the people being affected due to various developmental projects as final draft has been prepared and will be placed before the State Administrative Council (SAC) headed by Governor Satya Pal Malik shortly for approval.
Official sources told EXCELSIOR that with Government taking various initiatives for overall development of the State exercise of legal powers for acquisition of private property becomes imperative and leads to involuntary displacement of people depriving them of their land, livelihood and shelter besides uprooting them from their socio-cultural environment.
“Displacement of the people, for any reason, has traumatic, psycho-social and socio-cultural consequences for them thus broader concerted efforts are required on the part of the planners to include in the displacement, rehabilitation and resettlement process framework not only those who directly lose land and other assets but also those who are affected by acquisition of assets”, sources said.
Moreover, the State being vulnerable to disasters ranging from destructive floods to catastrophic earthquakes, snow blizzards to avalanches, wind storms to fires and landslides to soil erosion many a times witness voluntary or involuntary displacement of people from the affected or vulnerable areas.
Keeping all these aspects in mind, the Department of Disaster Management, Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction prepared a draft R&R Policy and forwarded the same to the General Administration Department for the approval of the Government.
However, the GAD vide Government Order No. 1387 dated October 26, 2017 constituted a high level committee to examine and finalize the draft of R&R Policy for the people affected due to setting up of hydro electric power projects, development related projects and all such acquisition of land and structures involving displacement of population.
The committee headed by Financial Commissioner Revenue and comprising of Administrative Secretaries of Power Development, Finance, Housing and Urban Development, Public Works Departments etc was directed to finalize the draft R&R Policy in respect of whether all sections of the policy are in conformity with the provisions of law and the amount of compensation of Rehabilitation and Resettlement Plan proposed in the policy is reasonable and acceptable.
After over one year long exercise, the high level committee has finalized the draft and the same will be placed before the State Administrative Council (SAC) headed by Governor Satya Pal Malik shortly for approval, sources informed, adding this would be the first-ever comprehensive R&R Policy for the State.
The R&R Policy shall be applicable to all developmental related projects including hydroelectric power projects, linear projects and acquisitions for decongestion of congested areas. “The policy shall be applicable to all such acquisitions of land and structures where voluntary or involuntary displacement of people is affected”, sources further said.
The basic objectives of the policy will be to avoid displacement wherever possible and minimise it by acquiring minimum land, commensurate with the purpose of the project, exercising other available options; minimise acquisition of agricultural land for non-agricultural use; to take into consideration alternatives such as wasteland, degraded land or un-irrigated land that will minimize the displacement of people due to the acquisition of land for the project.
Moreover, the policy will ensure adequate rehabilitation package and expeditious implementation of the rehabilitation process, with active participation of the affected families; to ensure that special care is taken for protecting the rights of the weaker sections of society; to integrate rehabilitation concerns into the development planning and implementation process.
The policy will also ensure social impact assessments and provide all required infrastructural facilities and amenities in the resettlement area in case large number of families are affected. In the policy, humane, participative, informed and transparent process for land acquisition has been recommended by the high level committee, sources further informed.
When contacted, Financial Commissioner Revenue Dr Pawan Kotwal confirmed that final draft of the policy has been prepared and is being submitted to the Government for placement before SAC shortly.