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90% of J&K land cannot be sold to outsiders: Govt

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Says agricultural land can only be sold to agriculturists from within J&K; 11 land laws repealed, regressive & outdated provisions removed

Jammu: The government on Monday said it has repealed 11 land laws that existed in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir replacing the old, “regressive, intrinsically contradictory and outdated” laws with a set of “modern, progressive and people-friendly provisions”.

It said the new land laws will not only afford protection to over 90 percent of the land in J&K from being alienated to outsiders but will also “help revamp the agriculture sector foster, rapid industrialisation, aid economic growth and create jobs in J&K.”

These clarifications were given by the Principal Secretary, PDD and Information, Rohit Kansal, who is also the government spokesman at a press conference in Jammu today.

Kansal made these comments while interacting with the media on a host of issues related to the UT of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of State Laws) Fifth Order, 2020.

Elaborating, Kansal remarked that the repealed laws were made to serve the old agrarian-based economy and were required to be modified for modern economic needs.

Besides, “they were beset with ambiguities, contradictions and redundancies and in many cases, were clearly regressive.”

For instance, he added, “a number of laws had contradictions leading to scope for discretionary interpretation and rent seeking”.

An official statement said the Prohibition of Conversion of Land and Alienation of Orchards Act, 1975 not only prohibited alienation of orchard lands; it surprisingly restricted creation of new orchards too.

Similarly, the old Agrarian Reforms Act prohibited the selling of land distributed to tillers even after 44 years. The Right of Prior Purchase Act severely constrained an owner’s right to dispose off her/his own property.

It further added the new land laws are “modern and progressive even while affording adequate protection against alienation of land to outsiders”.

A number of protections, it claims have been built into the new land laws on similar lines as has been enacted in other states such as Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

“To begin with, no agricultural land can be transferred to any person from outside the UT of J&K but can only be sold to an agriculturist from within J&K.

“No land used for agricultural purpose can be used for any non-agricultural purpose.

“The terms agricultural land and agriculturist have been unambiguously defined to include not just agriculture but horticulture and allied agro-activities as well. Agriculturist has been defined as ‘… a person who cultivates land personally in the UT of J&K…’.

“The safeguard on agricultural land alone would ensure that more than 90 percent of land in the UT, which is an agricultural land, remains protected and with the people of J&K,” the official handout said.

It said the new provisions not only address the infirmities in the old set of laws but also provide for modern and enabling provisions to aid in the agricultural and industrial growth of the UT of J&K.

“While progressive provisions of the repealed laws have been retained by including them in the modified Land Revenue Act, new provisions have been added to modernise existing laws,” the handout says.

It says there are now provisions for setting up of a Board of Revenue, Regional planning for regulating use of land, alienation and conversion, land lease, consolidation and contract farming. The Board of Revenue comprising senior officers will not only be the Developing Authority for preparing regional plans but can notify a scheme of consolidation of land holdings and also a scheme for restricting and regulating the fragmentation of agricultural land holdings to make agriculture viable,” the handout says.

The handout also sought to clarify that Section 3 has nothing to do with the transfer of any land to the Armed forces. “The transfer, both acquisition or requisitions, will continue to be governed by the existing law and the norms on the subject,” it says.

It says this section merely exempts the Armed forces from operation of such aspects of this Act so that the responsibility of ensuring that the construction activities are undertaken as per the Developmental Control Regulation of the Master Plan and all environmental safeguards are observed, “has been delegated to the Armed forces themselves.”

However, it claims “here too there are sufficient safeguards – it’s only applicable on own/legally acquired lands, only on request from officer not below Corps Commander (Lt. Gen), only for operational and training purposes, and on the discretion of and after satisfaction of the government- and on such conditions as may be required by the government.”

The handout also says that the main objective of the changes in the land laws is to provide to the people of J&K “a modernized land management system which is people-friendly and shall bring in greater transparency in land management.”

It says the laws need to be seen in totality “as a major step towards the development and progress of J&K in ushering in land reforms.”

‘Reactions to new land law uncharitable’

Jammu: The Jammu and Kashmir government on Monday described the reaction by many politicians to the new land laws in the union territory as “uncharitable and result of misapprehension”.

Rohit Kansal, government spokesman, said at a press conference in Jammu said, “A number of old laws, at least 11 of them, have been repealed and four major laws have been modified. The old legislations were outdated, regressive and anti-people.”

Reacting to reactions by mainstream politicians, who have said the new land laws have put J&K on sale, the spokesman said, “Many of these reactions are uncharitable.

“For example, some political parties have said that J&K is now on sale. Some others have said there is no protection with regard to land on similar lines as has been given to people by some other states.

“We think there are lots of misapprehension, misinformation and lack of clarity on these issues. The old land laws were probably a product of their times and may have been appropriate to the times when those were introduced,” Kansal said.

“The old land laws were essentially meant to serve an old agrarian rural economy. Quite obviously, many of those laws had been outdated and obsolete,” he said.

Citing an example, he said “the Big Lands Abolition Act fixed a ceiling of 182 kanals, but it was superseded by the Agrarian Reforms Act of 1976 which redefined the law, and yet the two laws continued to coexist.”

Kansal further said: “The Agrarian Reforms Act 1976 is 44 years old and yet this act prohibited selling of any land that was available to the tiller and even after a generation has past, the land could not be sold or transferred. As a consequence of this, you had large number of benami transactions,” he said.

“There was a need to straighten up, clean up the system and provide a set of simple land laws which would prevent unnecessary litigation and prevent discretionary interpretation of laws which leaves opportunities for the vested interests,” Kansal said.

As per the new land laws enacted on October 27 by the Ministry of Home Affairs, any citizen of India can buy land in J&K, except land reserved for agricultural purposes.

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