BUDGAM: The people of Khag area in central Kashmir’s Budgam district have shown strong resentment over the delaying tactics of the Roads and Buildings (R&B) department in carrying out work on the Aripanthan-Khag road project, while not paying compensation to the affected land owners.
The work on the 11-kilometre road project from Aripathan to Khag was started in the early part of this year, but almost six months have passed with the project being kept in abeyance for no discernible reason.
“The road-widening-cum-developmental project was sanctioned under a centrally sponsored scheme (CSS) worth Rs 13.5 crore, in which the road was supposed to be widened upto 40 feet,” land owner Shabir Khan told Kashmir Reader.
“For this purpose, it requires a huge land which was not all under government jurisdiction, but a portion of it comes under the private land.”
He added that we can’t give our land for free because it is our only means of income. Hence we are demanding the compensation for this land which is our right.
However, the authorities seem to be least bothered and have been keeping the project in abeyance as the R&B department is not paying the land owners who had already donated land.
“We (the landowners) also approached the J&K High Court, and court stayed the road project as said department failed to provide compensation to land owners,” the aggrieved land owners added.
One of the land owners, who identified himself as Rashid Sheikh, said that the concerned department has given compensation or 50 Kanals of land so far, but the funds were not provided to the land owners but rather were embezzled by the Deputy Commissioner and the R&B department chief.
“The Chief Engineer and DC Budgam have swallowed the matter with the result that the whole project remained in cold storage,” people alleged.
“They are not obeying High Court orders for providing compensation to landowners,” area residents said, adding that eighty thousand-strong population of Khag tehsil is the worst hit because of the bad condition of the said road.”
“We have brought this matter to the notice of the former Governor, who directed concerned Deputy Commissioner Budgam for immediate action, but present DC has swallowed up the issue,” they alleged.
“Now we want the intervention of the new Governor to direct the concerned Chief Engineer and DC Budgam for negotiation with landowners, so that people will not suffer,” they said.
Meanwhile, the Executive Engineer, R&B Budgam, Asgar Ali Watali, told Kashmir Reader that the work was stopped due to the land acquisition issue. “We have sent the acquisition request to the government and are waiting for its approval,” he said.
“In centrally sponsored schemes, there is only funds for the development of roads, and there is no share of compensation,” he added.
“We have done the work where it was the government land, and further extension of road (that comes under the private land) will be done once the government will issue compensation. We would then be sorting out the issue with the land owners of the area,” he said.
“We have sent the acquisition request to the government, and now the decision is to be taken by the government. Once they will issue funds for the acquisition of the land, we will start the work once again on the project.”
He, however, refused the allegations of embezzlement of funds by the concerned officials. “No funds have been released yet by the government for the acquisition of the land,” he said.
He added that since there is no rule for compensation in CSS, they only provide funds for road development. “However, we have sought compensation for the land owners in the acquisition request for the state project now.”
He went on, “After having meetings with the delegation of farmers many a times at DC office, we have decided that these funds shall be augmented and we should send the details to the state project. However, its concurrence is awaited till date, and that is the reason that the work has been kept in abeyance.”
“I have personally met the people and motivated them to let the work progress and told them that in the meantime your work will also be done, but they did not agree and forced us to leave the project midway,” he said.