When opposition against the new land laws enacted by the government started pouring in, the administration termed the criticism as ‘uncharitable’.
The J&K government said that it was a need to amend those laws. He claimed that no agricultural land can be used for industrial purposes or can be bought by the non-residents. It insisted that the agricultural land can only be sold to an agriculturist from within the UT. This safeguard will ensure that around 90% of land of the total area in UT which is used for agricultural purposes can not be sold to an outsider.
However, the claims are factually not very correct. Now, a district collector has the authority to approve the conversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes. This is one of the many changes which the ruling party has decided not to talk about much. Other than approving land conversion, the administration can now declare any area as ‘strategic’.
On October 26, the government passed the land laws under the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of Central Laws) Third Order. The government repealed 11 J&K laws and amended 14 others which dealt with the sale and purchase of land in the UT through this order.
Under Article 35A of the constitution which was repealed last year, the erstwhile state of J&K had powers to define permanent residents and these permanent residents had the rights to buy immovable property, including land in the region. The Wire was told by the former J&K advocate general MI Qadri that Article 35A has been disposed of and the government has now amended the land laws to do away with the residency clause.
Some of the major land laws which has been deleted or amended are Big Landed Estates Abolition Act-1950, the Jammu and Kashmir Land Revenue Act-1996, the Jammu and Kashmir Alienation of Land Act-1938, the Jammu and Kashmir Agrarian Reforms Act-1976 and the Jammu and Kashmir Land Grants Act-1960.
Qadri says that the most worrisome change has been the Land Revenue Act amendment. Under this, only an agriculturalist from the UT can buy agricultural land but it also gives the authority to the government to allow the transfer of the land to a non-agriculturist by way of gift, sale, exchange or mortgage. There is no bound that the non-agriculturalist should be a resident of J&K.
The government has allowed the armed forces to take control of any land by declaring it as ‘strategic’. Section 3 of the amended act establishes that on the written request of an army officer not below the rank of Corp Commander, the government can declare a specific area ‘strategic’ and can use it for direct operational and training requirements of the army.
The government has also approved the creation of the Jammu and Kashmir Industrial Development Corporation. This Corporation will have powers to acquire any land. It will work to promote development of industries in the region and establish and manage industrial estates.