Beleaguered Revenue Minister Bukhari assures enquiry in Roshni scam
MLAs of NC, Congress, PDP and BJP demand retrieval of fraudulently grabbed State land; ask Minister why Government is concealing names of beneficiary politicians, officials
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, Jun 18: Cutting across party lines, members of almost all the mainstream political parties---National Conference, Congress, PDP and BJP---on Saturday forced Minister of Revenue Syed Basharat Bukhari to assure Legislative Assembly that the Government would order an enquiry into fraudulent transfer of State lands to unauthorised occupants under the smokescreen of so-called Roshni Act.
While responding to a high-voltage debate over the question of NC MLA and former Speaker Mubarak Gul, a beleaguered Bukhari put up resistance for some time but finally said: “I assure the House that we will order an enquiry into it (Roshni scam)”.
Earlier, in his reply to the question, Bukhari revealed that 2,29,691 Kanals and 2 Marlas of state land had been transferred to 50,157 beneficiaries as per the Roshni Act in Jammu and Kashmir. He said that in Kashmir province 19,293 Kanals of the state land had been transferred among 10,328 beneficiaries. In Jammu province 2,10,398 Kanals of state land had been transferred among 39,829 beneficiaries.
Bukhari said that an amount of Rs 77,05,65,989 had been realised as cost of the land from the beneficiaries under the law. Of this Rs 54 crore had been collected in Kashmir and Rs 24 crore in Jammu.
During the course of his supplementary questions, Gul wanted to know whether the scheme was still in operation or it had been closed down in 2007 with its last extension. He also highlighted that influential people had grabbed thousands of Kanals of State land under Roshni scheme and managed to transfer it to their name by fraudulent means. While demanding a commission of enquiry, Gul and some other legislators asked for retrieval of the lands from illegal beneficiaries and stringent action against them as also the officials involved in the scandal.
Members of almost all the political parties joined the chorus and demanded an enquiry and retrieval of the fraudulently transferred lands. BJP’s Rajiv Jasrotia alleged that huge bungling in transfer of land to beneficiaries, especially politicians and bureaucrats, had taken place. Articulating the demand of enquiry, Jasrotia reminded the House that the Government had committed to collect Rs 25,000 crore as cost of the transferred land from the beneficiaries so as to create power plants and generate uninterrupted electricity for the State. He pointed out that only a meagre amount of Rs 77 crore had been realised and the scheme’s basic purpose had been defeated. “It has proved to be a big fraud. Will the Government revoke all transfer orders and retrieve the land from the beneficiaries? Why doesn’t the Minister name the politicians and bureaucrats who have unfairly benefitted from this scheme?”, Jasrotia asked.
PDP’s MLA and former Minister Mohammad Ashraf Mir too joined the chorus and demanded constitution of a commission of enquiry. While asserting that the Government was shielding the beneficiaries and the Minister had not named them as demanded in NC MLA’s question, Mir asked why the answer about Srinagar Municipality had been given but the same concealed about Jammu Municipality.
Replying to the allegations, the Minister admitted that Roshni scheme was introduced to generate revenue of Rs 25,000 crore for the state. “I was then working in Radio Kashmir when it was said that it will generate a revenue of Rs 25,000 crore and help the state to start new power projects in the state”, Bukhari said. He said that a PIL on this issue was under consideration of Jammu and Kashmir High Court. He sought suggestions from members for churning out corrective measures.
“Mein abhi andheri mein hoon, Roshni ki taraf nahi aaya hoon”. (I am fresh with this portfolio and have not touched the Roshni scheme yet). It will take me some time to understand it and formulate necessary remedial measures”, Bukhari pleaded. However the members refused to relent. Finally the Minister obliged them with his assurance that the Government would order an enquiry into the Roshni scam.
Minister revealed that Jammu and Kashmir Land Records Management Agency, a nodal agency of revenue department had outsourced the activities of the project, modernization of land records in the state including digitization of revenue records in a phased manner.