Govt’s half-hearted action to break shutdowns in Srinagar
Defaulting allottees get threats by the day, consolation by the night
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
According to well-placed informed sources, constitution of a Task Force to initiate action against the defaulting allottees of hundreds of government shops in the capital city was lacking in seriousness. Officials holding key positions in the departments functioning under Ministry of Housing & Urban Development, Ministry of Revenue as also those directly falling in the Chief Minister’s own portfolios, insist that they had no knowledge of a government decision to initiate action against the traders who had violated allotment provisions in operating business from their outlets. “There is no such Cabinet order or circular in the Civil Secretariat”, said an official of the rank of Principal Secretary to the Government.
Traders interviewed by this newspaper maintained that it were in fact they, not the government, who desperately wanted to keep their business running. But the authorities, according to them, had never provided them any sort of security or taken any action against the people involved in harassing the shopkeepers or damaging their structures and merchandise. “We have been left to fend for ourselves. We can’t obviously take on the stone pelters and miscreants. None of the governments since 1990 has provided us any support or security. How can they blame us for observing strikes on the call of separatists and militants and now take arbitrary action against the shopkeepers?” asked a representative of the traders in Lalchowk.
Another shopkeeper at Budshah Flats, wishing anonymity, narrated how the traders, who had lifted heavy loans from banks, had been forced to go for either distress sale of their continuously shut shops or leasing the same out to the third parties. He claimed that without taking the traders into confidence or discussing with them frequent shutdowns, some of the government officers had begun to dole out threats. According to him, these officers had arranged a gathering of unemployed youth at Divisional Commissioner’s office earlier this week with the assurances that the shops of defaulting allottees would be allotted to them on spot.
“They were encouraged to shout slogans, only to harass the traders. How can the government take arbitrary measures to evict the traders and take back the possession? There is a set procedure with each and every government department. For example, nobody other than Deputy Director of Estates is competent by law to revoke allotments or take back possession of the misused premises of his department”, he explained. He alleged that the officers had been talking of “pagdi and nazrana” knowing well that nobody leaves any proof of such illegal transactions. “They clearly mean that sharing a part of such Pagdi and Nazrana would resolve the issue”, he added.
It is an open secret that transfer of possession of a private or government shop allotted to a private person anywhere between the fashionable Boulevard and Jehangir Chowk, happens only after cash payment of money ranging between Rs 20 Lakh and Rs 80 Lakh to the individual in possession of a premises.
Divisional Commissioner, Asgar Hassan Samoon, has constituted a Task Force apparently for the purpose of initiating action against the defaulting allottees. This is widely being interpreted as the government’s first ever move to break the chain of the Hurriyat-sponsored shutdowns in
. Closure of business centers on the days of shutdown, called by separatists and militants, sends a message to every incoming visitor that the government was merely on papers and only the anti-India forces’ writ was running large in the Valley. Srinagar
An official press release from the Department of Information today claimed that that the Divisional Commissioner’s Task Committee had started the process of identifying the illegal occupants of government shops, government commercial complexes and other government buildings and the allottees who had sub let their premises illegally, without authorization of government or concerned HOD.
“The Committee has also started collecting lists of various illegal constructions, multi-story complexes and encroachment made on government land during recent months” it added, without mentioning that more than 500 unauthorised constructions had come up in this lawless summer, particularly in the ‘Green Belt’ around Nageen and Dal lake.
“The Task Committee has been provided list of 4000 government shops, which actually belong to Estates department, Municipalities, custodians department, R&B, Auquaf and other Government and semi-government institutions. The value of these shops is thousands of Crores in present market. The Committee has received authentic reports that some allotees have sold their allotments through illegal methods by receiving Crores of amounts as pagdi or nazrana in a clandestine manner without depositing the same as premium with concerned government departments, who are the actual owner of such shops and commercial establishments”, the official release said.
“The Committee after identifying such cases, who have caused loss to government exchequer and are still illegally occupying these shops, will impose penalties under law and make recovery of arrears as per existing rules in this regard and ensure eviction of such encroachments and illegal occupation”, it warned. On the other hand, a number of traders disclosed that there was a “huge gap” between the government’s daytime threats and the officials’ consolations coming to them by night.