Illegal construction on NH ravages agricultural land

View of structures constructed at paddy land along Manigam-Lar highway in Ganderbal district. —Excelsior/Younis Khaliq
View of structures constructed at paddy land along Manigam-Lar highway in Ganderbal district. —Excelsior/Younis Khaliq

Suhail Bhat
Srinagar, Oct 31: The Revenue authorities are acting as mute spectators to the vandalization of agricultural land along Srinagar- Leh Highway in Central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district due to illegal and unabated constructions.
In order to prevent vandalization of agricultural land, authorities recently banned construction within 200 meters on either side of the Highway. However, the local administration has failed to implement the ban as several residential and commercial structures have mushroomed along the highway.
Several commercial and residential structures have come up on agricultural land on seven kilometers stretch of the highway from Manigam to Baroosa. The agriculture land is classified as “Abiawal” and Section 133 A of Land Revenue Act states that agricultural land on which paddy, vegetation or saffron has been grown for two years cannot be utilized for any purpose unless written permission is obtained from the Revenue Minister.
Over the years dozens of structures including shopping complexes and residential houses have been constructed on the entire stretch from Manigam to Baroosa. Places like Laar and Baroosa are most affected as there are massive violations along this portion of the highway.
The locals of several areas alleged that the structures are being built in connivance with the Revenue officials as the violations are taking place right under their nose. “The violations are visible on the ground and the authorities are deliberately turning a blind eye to it. The officials take hefty amounts to give free hand to violators,” a local from Manigam wishing anonymity told Excelsior.
Tehsildar Laar, Mohammad Ramzan, when contacted, said that their field staff is continuously monitoring the violations. “We regularly receive ground reports from our field staff and act accordingly,” he said.
Asked about the number of illegal structures they have identified, the Tehsildar asked for calling him after one day for details. However, despite repeated attempts, the Tehsildar did not respond.
The 7-kilometer Manigam Bypass touches nearly 8-10 villages of Ganderbal district and passes through the picturesque rural areas but the beauty of the area is being ravaged by the illegal constructions. The 434 Km long Srinagar- Leh Highway connects Leh- Ladakh and rest of the country through Kashmir valley.
Deputy Commissioner Ganderbal, Piyush Singla, when contacted feigned ignorance and said that he would look into the matter. “Now that you have brought the issue to our notice we will look into it,” he said.