Srinagar land grab

Illegal and unauthorized occupation of Government or non-Government land, called land grabbing, in the jurisdiction of Srinagar city has been a long standing complaint of people and stakeholders. In fact land grabbing is a new type of mafia activity that has become current in Kashmir as well as Jammu regions for quite some time. Repeated warnings from media exposing part of the land grabbing activity by a nexus have belatedly borne fruit and the Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir formally constituted a Committee under the Deputy Commissioner Srinagar to probe the case of unauthorized land grabbing in Srinagar and submit the report to the Commissioner.
In February last, the Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir had ordered the probe and the constituting of a Committee, which, in its turn, conducted the probe through subordinate officials of Revenue Department and has finally come up with the finding that has been submitted to the Divisional Commissioner.  This is a startling report and what one learns from it is that Government land worth 10,000 crore rupees stands grabbed by various agencies/persons in the peripheries of Srinagar city. It accounts for 22, 339 kanals of State land and 264.4 kanals of water bodies under the illegal occupation. Amusingly Government organizations like the Department of Police and Headquarter of Special Operation Group are included among the illegal occupants of Government land. 126.7 kanals belonging to Srinagar Municipal Corporation is under unauthorized occupation of 74 encroachers. The report says that 170.2 kanals of land is under 110 beneficiaries of Roshni Act and they have not fulfilled the requirements under the Act.
The question is that we have an elaborate Revenue Department with vast field network whose primary duty is to oversee protection and preservation of Government land. How come that these functionaries who have been drawing fat salaries from the state exchequer have become victims of dereliction of duty? Why did not they inform higher authorities at proper time and moved all concerned agencies to stop unauthorized occupation of the land that belongs to the Government? Obviously, the simple answer to this baffling question is that there exists a nexus between the land grabbers and revenue officials. Srinagar is a highly congested city and land is rarely available for construction of residential buildings. Under these conditions, it was more important that Revenue authorities were sensitized to the issue of land grab by unauthorized persons. Are these land grabbers so powerful and influential that the Government cannot vacate the illegal possession and retrieve its property? We can say with fair amount of confidence that even higher Revenue authorities in Kashmir have advertently or inadvertently overlooked the case of land grabbing and allowed the irregularity to happen. The question is what the authorities should now do in this case. The law is clear and they have to be dealt with according to the law of the land. Illegal occupation of the Government land has to be vacated and rent for the period of occupancy has to be realized from the occupants. Alternatively if the land is to be allotted to the occupants formally, they should pay the market price of the land. There cannot be any concession for them.
It has also to be reminded that in a similar irregularity case, land grabbing in Jammu has also been reported by the media. Actually land grabbing has become a state level issue and the Government will need to take a firm and clear decision of how to deal with this menace. Intriguingly the report submitted by the Assistant Commissioner Revenue Department in regard to land grabs in Srinagar city does not make any mention of what action the Government or the Revenue Department has taken to retrieve the land. There have to be clear and exclusive orders to the Revenue Department officials to act and get the occupancy vacated.


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