Eviction drive in J&K unlawful, will bring back Roshni Scheme if voted to power: Ghulam Nabi Azad

Everyone, including government officials, who used the scheme to usurp large chunks of land will face the law, he said

Ghulam Nabi Azad (photo: IANS)
Ghulam Nabi Azad (photo: IANS)


Democratic Progressive Azad Party president Ghulam Nabi Azad on Saturday said the eviction drive to retrieve government land was "unlawful" and claimed he will bring back the Roshni Scheme if his party is voted to power in the next assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir.

Everyone, including government officials, who used the scheme to usurp large chunks of land will face the law, he said.

On November 1, 2020, the Union Territory administration cancelled all land transfers that took place under the JK State Land (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001 - also known as the Roshni Act - under which 2.5 lakh acres of land was to be transferred to existing occupants.

Over 10 lakh kanals of land was retrieved by the government after the Revenue department directed all deputy commissioners to ensure 100 per cent removal of encroachments from state land including the land meant for grazing that which came under Roshni Act on January 7 this year.

The Act, popularly called as Roshni scheme, initially envisaged conferment of proprietary rights of around 20.55 lakh kanals (1,02,750 hectares) to the occupants. Of this land, only 15.85 per cent was approved for vesting of ownership rights.

The scheme was finally repealed by then governor Satya Pal Malik on November 28, 2018.

"The eviction drive was unlawful, so we staged over 85 protests across the UT. When there was no impact of the protests, I met the Lt Governor and the Home Minister and raised the issue forcefully," Azad told a group of Gujjars who joined his party here.

The Gujjars community members led by DPAP leader and JMC corporator Sobat Ali met Azad at his residence and informed him that they were being constantly harassed by the government officials who kept saying that they were living on forest land and their houses and shops would be razed.

Azad said everyone in Jammu & Kashmir is facing this problem.

"After 1947, people occupied land in plains for their resettlement. In Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Kolkata, we saw governments regularising such colonies. I was in Congress when our government passed a law to provide rights over forest land to the inhabitants but this law was not implemented in J&K due to Article 370.

"We did a wrong by not implementing the law as we were of the notion that they will not face any eviction drive. However, when Article 370 was abrogated in August 2019 the forest land act got automatically extended to J&K but instead of implementing it, the administration started an eviction drive which was unlawful," Azad said.

Defending the Roshni scheme, he said it was meant to benefit the landless poor in the villages and also regularise the land in the cities to generate revenue."The scheme was passed by the J&K cabinet headed by me and the assembly. The landless were provided land by Maharaja (Hari Singh, the last Dogra ruler), Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah (NC founder) and later my government," he said. Azad said there were complaints of wrong-doing by some people, including members of the government and police.

"If voted to power, we will bring back the Roshni scheme and also launch an inquiry against the officials against whom there are complaints of wrongdoings," he said.

Later talking to reporters, the DPAP leader said he will regularise the daily-wagers working in different government departments for over two decades. "Hundreds and thousands of daily-wagers met me, they are getting Rs 5,000 to Rs 9,000 and are not being regularised. They have got married and are over-age (to look for other jobs). It will be my first priority as they have a right," he said. 

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Published: 14 Oct 2023, 2:56 PM