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Ghulam Hassan Mir seeks halt to anti-encroachment drive

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Demands regularization illegal colonies in J&K

JAMMU: Apni Party Senior Vice President, Ghulam Hassan Mir today condemned the anti-encroachment drive as it caused anxiety and fear among thousands of people in Jammu and Kashmir.

Addressing a press conference here at the Apni Party Office, Gandhi Nagar; Ghulam Hassan Mir said, “The manner in which the anti-encroachment drive has been undertaken violates the norms of welfare and democratic state. Needless to say that in a welfare state, the government is obligated to provide homes to the homeless. In this land, thousands are under the threat of losing their homes. There is no logic in rendering the people homeless by bulldozing their houses.”

“There is a need to draw a distinction between the land grabbers and the people, compelled by their basic needs, to raise structures on small pieces of the state land, be it nazool or kahacharai,” Mir said.

He said that the land grabbers should be punished under the law of the land. “There is no opposition to this, but demolishing the small hutments or small business establishments on the state land cannot be put in the same category. It seems that the government did not do its homework properly, and has come out with a sweeping order that has caused severe fear among the masses.”

He further said that the Apni Party has made its position very clear on this. “It presented the same plea before the Home Minister Amit Shah and J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, that reason and logic should be applied. The anti-encroachment drive should not mean rendering people homeless and jobless.”

“Our fear is that it would create constituencies of resentment, and that can have adverse consequences for the whole of J&K, which after a long wait and struggle, has come to steady itself out of the dark period of violence. The fear is that such actions may reverse the gains,” he said.

In light of these facts, he said, “Both Home Minister and LG had promised and assured that no such action would be undertaken, but what has happened over the past few days has shown the gaps between the assurances and the reality on the ground. We still believe that a better sense will prevail and the poor and small-time business operators.”

“Here, the Apni Party also wants to tell the government that it should halt these bulldozers – demolition operations, revisit the decision, and modify it by looking at the basic human needs. Those who have committed a crime by grabbing the land should be dealt with under the law of the land, and there are many provisions in existence,” he said.

He added that normal people, who have spent their lifetime savings to raise a shelter for themselves or start a business, should be respected for their contribution. “They have done what the government should have done – constructed houses, easing pressure on the government, and the self-employed youth have also helped the government in dealing with matters of urgency. At a time when the culture of startups is being practiced, how fair is it to uproot these self-employed youth?”

He further said that the best course, as we have said it time and again, is that the Government should issue formal orders, and take rent from the building owners, to keep things afloat. “Secondly, as is the norm in the rest of the country, and also in J&K, that irregular colonies are regularized, all such colonies, whether in Jammu or Kashmir should be regularized.”

“This would be in keeping with the norm of the past and present. It may be recalled that 6,000 colonies were regularized in Delhi just a couple of years ago,” he said.

Likewise, he said that the Government instead of cutting trees and fruit trees in forest areas, under encroachment, should take these pieces of land, small or big, under its control. “Thereafter, an appropriate decision can be taken to enrich the trees and fruit trees in orchards. That would be in keeping with the norms of the welfare state, as cutting of trees and ransacking of horticulture would leave the land and people hurt. It would also lead to many misperceptions. This approach should be abandoned forthwith.”

He recalled here that as far as the lease land is concerned, there is an urgent need to look into the history of the whole idea and the allotment of land.

“First thing first, the lease in most of the cases in Pahalgam and Gulmarg was leased in the late 1970s, to be precise in 1978-79. That was the era when there was a very limited working season in Kashmir, particularly these resorts, where snow used to cover the landscape for months. Everything had to be done manually. It took almost a decade for the leaseholders to construct their establishments. Hardly, they had worked for two or three years when Kashmir slid into an unfortunate dark era of guns and grenades. Everything came to a standstill. For three decades, they had no business, only the liabilities,” he said.

“Now that the situation has improved and they started getting tourists, the government has come out with an order not to renew their lease. This is ignoring the history and the pain of those who invested in Pahalgam and Gulmarg. The norm, as it is in the rest of the country, the lease is renewed in favour of the leaseholder, should be adopted in J&K.”

“There is no reason why J&K should be treated differently. It is advisable that to save the leaseholders, the employees working with them, and the economy of the places, to renew their lease and charge them for the renewal,” he added.

“And if the infrastructure is to be retrieved, it should be utilized for the public. These could be converted into schools, dispensaries or health centres or for that matter panchayat ghar or other facilities which may be required in particular areas. The demolition of the infrastructure would cause double loss apart from creating resentment among the people,” he said.

“The government should be humane, practical, and save the economy. Otherwise, our fears are that there would be alienation, and if the past 30 years have taught us anything, it is very, very difficult to bridge the gaps. Let’s learn from history,” he added.

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