Govt notice to Army, Agri Deptt on illegal occupation in Gulmarg

Srinagar: Under directions from the Jammu and Kashmir High court, the state government has issued a notice to Army on unauthorized occupation of more than 175 acres of land in ecologically fragile environs of Gulmarg tourist resort.
The government has also issued notice to Director Agriculture Department Kashmir and all the lessees whose lease has already expired, the Chief Secretary of the state was told in a high-level meeting chaired by him recently, official sources said.
In the notices, the authorized occupants have been asked to show cause under section sub-section 1 of section 4 of J&K Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act, 1988, they said.
The notice to Army, through Defence Estate Officer, has been issued following a report by a panel headed by Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, revealing that the Army possesses 305 acres, 5 kanals and 13 marlas of land against the ‘allotted’ 130 acres in Gulmarg.
It was on November 22, 1991, that 130 acres (1040 kanals) of land under administrative council decision number 139 was transferred to Army by the state Tourism Department “subject to certain terms and conditions.”
As report previously, a separate high-level committee has been constituted (vide government order no. 136-GAD of 2014, dated February 3, 2014), to work out the modalities for transfer of the 175.64 acres of land under the ‘unauthorised’ occupation of Army at Gulmarg, in lieu of the land to be exchanged for Tattoo Ground, Batamaloo.
The committee, constituted on February 3 last, has been tasked to submit its report within three months.
The decision to constitute the panel was actually taken at the Civil-Military Liaison Conference (CMLC) chaired by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in November last year.
The members of the committee include Administrative Secretary Home Department, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir (Member Secretary), Principal Chief Conservator Forest (J&K), Administrative Secretary Forest Department, Administrative Secretary Tourism Department, Representative of Northern Command (not below the rank of Major General to be nominated by the Army Commander and Principal Director, Defence Estate Northern Command.
On February 4 last, a division bench of Jammu and Kashmir High Court directed that the land which is under occupation of encroachers should be vacated without any delay and all such persons were required to be evicted, underlining that “they are rank land grabbers of public land.”
The High Court has also asked government to charge penal rent from all the lessees who after demarcation process, set to begin from ensuing April, are found to have occupied land in excess to what was originally allotted to them.
In the fresh directions, the High Court has asked government to prosecute land grabbers in accordance with law “so that public faith in the governance of the state is restored.”