SPECIAL REPORT / ANCHOR
JAMMU: Politicians and bureaucrats in successive governments in Jammu and Kashmir have given nearly 1,400 kanals of prime land into unauthorised possession of different government and private parties out of the erstwhile state’s total assets of 1,500 kanals. Sources in Department of Hospitality and Protocol revealed to STATE TIMES that not more than 116 kanals of land was currently in possession of the Union Territory Government. Successive governments from time to time had acquired or obtained on lease 1500 kanals of land in New Delhi, Chandigarh, Amritsar and Kolkata but the lion’s share of it has been given into unauthorised possession of different parties—allegedly for pecuniary considerations.
Around 1400 kanals of prime land ‘sold out’ by bureaucrats, politicians; even lease files missing
On the prime land of 41 kanals and 12 marlas at 5-Prithviraj Road, known as the ‘old J&K House’, Government had the office and residence of Principal Resident Commissioner, suites for Governor and Chief Minister, offices and residential premises of the staff of Resident Commissioner, a circuit house and a branch of the Jammu and Kashmir Bank. At Chanakyapuri, known as ‘new J&K House’, Government had land measuring 11 kanals and 18.2 marlas. A Guest House comprising three blocks (81 rooms), four VIP suites and 40 residential quarters for staff had been built on this piece of land. Both these properties in Lutyen’s area of the Union Capital have stayed in the Government’s possession. J&K Government also owned a plot measuring 4,000 sq meters (7 kanals and 18 marlas) at Shalimar Bagh in Delhi. Since 1977, it has been under possession of Horticulture (Planning & Marketing) Department which has built on the premises a Kisan Ghar comprising 28 rooms. However, a major part of the government’s largest property in the Union Capital, measuring 114 kanals and 11.2 marlas, at Rajaji Marg, has been in possession of the union Ministry of Defence since decades. In the first decade after independence, bureaucrats and officials are said to have given 96 kanlas of this prime land into the possession of Military Engineering Wing. Besides, land measuring 1 kanal and 11.2 marlas had been given into the possession of Central PWD, leaving just 17 kanals in possession of the State government. J&K Government had also a plot of land measuring 433.77 sq yards (14 marlas) at Baba Kharak Singh Marg in New Delhi. Offices and showrooms of Kashmir Government Arts Emporium and J&K Industries Ltd were located on the same land. Sources said that it had been given out on a perpetual lease but disclosed that no copy of the lease deed was available with the State government. There is a sordid story behind encroachment of the erstwhile State’s largest property, measuring 1251 kanals and 4 marlas at Sirsa in Haryana. “This land has been surreptitiously transferred in the name of Mirpur Cooperative Society by the Assistant Collector 1st Class. It had been initially leased out to M/S Bajwa Brothers for 5 years with effect from 1957. Subsequently it was transferred in favour of Mirpur Cooperative Society by an order dated 02-04-1986 passed by the Assistant Controller 1st class Sirsa”, said an official. Sources said that a writ petition was filed in Punjab & Haryana High Court for dispossession of the land but the J&K Government was lackadaisical in pursing it and getting the land in its possession for years. In October 2012, then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah gave details of these encroachments in Legislative Council in written reply to a question from the National Conference member Dr Bashir Ahmad Veeri. However, the reply did neither identify the bureaucrats and politicians responsible for the connivance nor it mentioned why the bureaucrats and Ministers in successive governments from 1986 to 2012 had not initiated any action for restoration of the possession of 1251 kanals of the usurped land. Numerous complaints alleging that officers and politicians of all successive governments had conveniently slept over illegal occupation of J&K Government’s lands, particularly those in Delhi, Mumbai and Sirsa, in lieu of huge amounts of bribes and other favours, fell on the deaf ears of the successive regimes. Sources said that J&K Government had an area of 2646 sft at World Trade Centre, cuffee House, in Mumbai which houses Joint Resident Commissioner’s office. It had also a guest house of two bed rooms and a dining room on the 3rd floor of Advent Building on Foreshore Road in Mumbai, over area of 1,436 sft. It also had a duplex flat (5672 sft) on 2nd floor of the building called Haveli at LD Rupareal Marg, Mallabar Hills in Mumbai. The flat of 5 bed rooms is being used as the state government’s Guest House in Mumbai.
Sources said that land measuring 5802 sft (1 kanal and 2 marlas) at Napean Sea Road, Mumbai, has been on lease with M/S Sanghvi Construction Company, Mumbai, for 90 years w.e.f. 1st June, 1991.
In Chandigarh, J&K Government had land measuring 7 kanals and 10.6 marlas in Sector-5A (J&K House). It had 6 guest rooms and a VIP suite. The state government had also a commercial building of 1 kanal and 7 marlas in Sector-17A comprising 4 floors and a basement. This property worth hundreds of crores of Rupees was leased out to Labour Bureau, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India, for peanuts of Rs 1.08 lakh per month.
J&K House Amritsar, situated at 2-Court Road, Amritsar, has one VIP suite and three guest rooms in the main building and three in another building, besides staff quarters and one Manager’s Quarter. It has total area of 19 kanals. Government had also 32 kanals and 9 marlas of land at Daim Gunj, Tapai Road, Amritsar, which was under unauthorized occupation of the families of original lessees for many years.
J&K State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) had land measuring 5 kanals and 19 marlas, with a single story building on it, at Dalhousie Road in Pathankot, Punjab. SRTC used it as depot for inter-state bus service without considering its commercial utilization.
Decades back, J&K Chief Minister had used its influence over then West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu and got a prime piece of land, measuring 4 kanals and 2.5 marlas, on lease at the high valed Salt Lake in Kolkata for construction of a Kisan Ghar. For years, successive governments in J&K failed to raise a Kisan Ghar for the benefit of the State’s apple growers and traders. Consequently, the lease was terminated several times. However, Omar Abdullah’s government retrieved the land.
“There were two pieces of our land in Salt Lake area. One had been occupied by the local land grabbers. We have got both these pieces, measuring around 8 kanals, retrieved and constructed a Kisan Ghar and a Controlled Atmosphere Storage of 2000 MT capacity mainly for our apple produce selling in West Bengal. While as the Kisan Ghar is almost complete, we have submitted a revised DPR (Detailed Project Report) through NABARD for completion of the mechanical component of the CAS. Both these facilities will be functional in the current year”, Secretary incharge Horticulture and Agriculture in J&K Government Manzoor Ahmad Lone said.
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