The Roshni Scam

The Vigilance Organisation seems all set to probe the Roshni scam. The Superintendents of Police (SPs) in the SVO have been directed by the Chief Vigilance Commissioner to crack the case speedily. In their turn, the officers have sought revenue records from the District Development Commissioners concerned for scrutiny as a part of detailed investigations to fix criminal culpability of the public servants and beneficiaries of land transfers.
The scam came to fore after the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India indicted some IAS officers in the state for “involvement” in irregularities and “non-cooperation” with auditors. The CAG report is to be submitted to the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly in the coming budget session.
The CAG also mentioned the names of bureaucrats who did not cooperate in the audit. Shockingly, the Secretary for Administrative Reforms, Ghulam Hassan Tantray, the Chief Secretary, Muhammad Iqbal Khanday, and the Principal Secretary for Finance, Bharat Bhushan Vyas have been named in the report.
Pertinently, the total earnings under the scheme, once estimated to fetch the state Rs 25,000 crore, have not crossed even the Rs 80 crore mark in the 12 years it has been in force.
The programme has fetched Rs 76.45 crore against the cost of Rs 317.41 crore for the 3.48 lakh kanals approved for ownership rights to occupants. Earlier, in March 2010, the Government had informed the Assembly during the budget session at Jammu that Rs 72 crore had been generated under the scheme. Of the total land decided under Roshni, the minister concerned said, 3.40 lakh kanals were agricultural in nature, 6949 kanals residential, and 990 kanals commercial. Another 130 kanals had been used for construction of institutions.
The J and K Government had in 2001 enacted the Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, also named the Roshni Act, to generate Rs 25,000 crore by vesting ownership rights over nuzool land. The aim was to sell it at market rates to illegal occupants. But 12 years on, the scheme has turned out to be what even senior government officers describe as the biggest fraud in the state’s administrative history.
The state has not only lost prized land, but has also had to drastically revise its own estimates of the returns to a meager Rs 6000 crore.
“Authorized occupants” owning residential structures on state or nuzool land of up to 2 kanals were required to pay only 25 percent of the value, and those on plots of up to 10 kanals 40 per cent. For “authorized overstayed” and unauthorized occupants, the rates were fixed at 35 percent and 50 percent of the value of the land respectively. In the commercial category, authorized, authorized overstayed and unauthorized occupants had to pay 30 percent, 45 percent and 60 percent of the value of the land respectively.
In case of institutions (educational, religious, charitable, social, trusts, societies) and political parties, the rates were fixed at 15 percent and 25 percent of the market value of the land respectively. But the blow to the Roshni Scheme was dealt in February 2007 when the then government reintroduced it in the legislature, fixing a token amount of Rs 100 for up to 100 kanals of agricultural land.

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