J&K administration has decided to scrap the Roshni Act and take back all the land allocated under the Act. It also declared names of top profile individuals and families, who misused the Act to acquire land. On the other hand, India is planning to digitize land related records to remove problems in matter of land allocation. Let’s understand Roshni Act and also see what digitization has in store for India’s land laws.
Crux of the Matter
In 2001, the J&K Government implemented the Jammu and Kashmir State Land (vesting of ownership to the occupants) Act. Under this Act, the government decided to transfer the state’s land ownership to the occupants subject to payment of the cost of land, as decided by the government at market rate. 20 lakh kanals (1 kanal = 1/8 acres) land was kept aside to raise ₹25,000 crores, which would be used to fund hydroelectric power projects in the state. Thus, it was also called the Roshni Act. 1990 was the cut off year set by Farooq Abdullah’s government – the occupant must have been residing on the land before 1990.
In 2005, the PDP-Congress Government increased the cutoff year to 2004. Later, the government of Ghulam Nabi Azad further relaxed the cutoff year to 2007. It also made free the transfer of ownership of land to agricultural farmers occupying it, with the only charge being ₹100 per kanal as a documentation fee.
From Corruption To Scrap
- In 2009, the State Vigilance Commission filed an FIR against govt officials for allegedly conspiring to illegally possess and provide land ownership to people who did not satisfy the criteria.
- In 2014, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) found that only ₹76 crores had been realized between 2007-13 from land transfers as against the set target of ₹25,000 crores.
- In 2015, the State Vigilance Organisation alleged over 20 government officials for misuse of the Act.
- In 2018, the Governor of J&K Satya Pal Malik repealed the Act and ordered a CBI inquiry.
- In 2020, the HC ruled the Act unconstitutional and said the state government said it will recover all land given under the Act. Moreover, J&K authorities also released names of several high profile families involved in corruption and misuse of the Act. Names include Haseeb Drabu & family, KK Amla & family, Shahdad family, Gagu Ram family, Nawai Subh, Khidmat trust, Farooq and Omar Abdullah, etc.
Land Digitization Reforms
Land allocation and governance in India are facing problems like internal constraints, local agitations, speculative increase in land prices, corruption, lack of transparency, etc. To remove such a problem government has launched a nationwide GIS-enabled land bank system.
It is developed by the Integration of Industrial Information System (IIS) with state GIS (Geographic Information System). E-land bank consists of a database of industrial clusters/areas across more than 3,300 industrial parks in India covering about 4,75,000 hectares of land more. It will contain information such as drainage, forest; raw material heat maps (horticulture, agricultural, mineral layers), owner’s details, etc.
How Will It Help?
For registration and other purposes, now people won’t have to visit the land Registrar’s office, reducing the scope of corruption. Clear ownership information can help avoid land disputes, and digital databases can bring transparency. With authorised intermediary, all information can be availed from anywhere in the world. Moreover, GIS technology can help estate professionals evaluate and manage a site, figure marketing strategies, etc.
- In Himachal Pradesh, only an agriculturist belonging to the State can purchase agricultural land there. People from other states require prior permission of the Government of Himachal Pradesh.
- Common heritage of mankind is a principle of international law that holds that defined territorial areas and elements of humanity’s common heritage (cultural and natural) should be held in trust for future generations and be protected from exploitation by individual nation-states or corporations.
- Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is another act implemented in Jammu and Kashmir in which the Indian Armed Forces can arrest someone and search a building to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”. It is effective in the whole of Nagaland, Assam, Manipur (excluding seven assembly constituencies of Imphal), and parts of Arunachal Pradesh too.