Four months after the Centre revoked the special status of the then state of Jammu and Kashmir, transforming it into a Union Territory (UT), it has identified 57,000 acres of land in the UT for prospective entrepreneurs to establish industrial estates.
While 15,000 acres of land has been identified in the Kashmir valley said Divisional Commissioner Basheer Ahmad Khan and 42,500 acres of land has been earmarked in Jammu by the UT administration said Jammu Divisional Commissioner Sanjeev Verma.
The development came in after KK Sharma, Advisor to the Lieutenant Governor chaired a high-level meeting directing officers to make suitable and sufficient land available for the purpose of businessmen willing to set up industries. “Development of more industrial estates will go a long way in boosting the industrial scenario in J-K, generate employment opportunities and contribute to the local economy,” he told reporters.
Ravinder Kumar, Managing Director of the State Industrial Development Corporation (SIDCO) said that around 10,000 kanals of land has been identified in Kathua and Samba districts of Jammu & Kashmir and another 5,000 to 7,000 kanals have been set aside in Ganderbal, Kupwara and some other districts of Kashmir, The Wire reported.
Kumar mentioned that since the Centre had struck down Article 370 and Article 35A that prevented people from outside J&K from buying land and owning property there, they have received Expressions of Interest (EoI) from more than 39 companies outside the UT. He said that the investors expressed interest in investing in different sectors like apple trade, cold storage, the dry fruit and saffron industries and the hotel and tourism industries and have submitted detailed project proposals for the same, though no project had been cleared yet.
This revelation of the government, of setting aside land for industries has come in almost two months after an investor summit, that was to be held in the Valley in October, was cancelled over security concerns at the time.
Us vs. them
After the revocation of Article 370, the people of Jammu and Kashmir have faced manifold issues with regards to their fundamental rights. They were stripped of basic rights, with children being detained, media being stifled, healthcare services failing and trade dwindling.
Now they are in conflict about their land rights which is sought to be acquired for industries. But the BJP state government is trying to allay fears by saying that it has pitched for a domicile law which would protect their rights with regards to the purchase / ownership of land and their employment in Union Territory government jobs.
Gulchain Singh Charak, the President of Jammu-based socio-political organisation Dogra Saddar Sabha had earlier spoken to The New Indian Express saying, “Industrialists should be allowed to set up such industries which don’t exist in J&K, and that too only after obtaining No Objection Certificates from departments and laws should be strictly enforced to ensure that J&K residents are not deprived of jobs and their land is not taken away.”
Harsh Dev Singh, president of the J&K National Panthers Party had also asserted that the domicile certificates shouldn’t be given to any non-local, adding that if that was done, it would only add to the unemployment, joblessness and poverty in the region.
A renowned businessman while speaking to The Wire had said that while the business community in Kashmir was not averse to the plans of the government to bring in industries, it had not made clear the details of the process of awarding the investments to such companies.
This year, the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the state had cleared 125 projects on forest land between August and October, Down to Earth (DTE) reported. While the details of the area of the diverted forest land or the nature of the projects were not made clear, it is being said that the land would be used for development projects like drilling of tube wells, laying of transmission lines.
Objections were raised against this move because of the absence of the application of Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 in the state. Forest rights advocates had objected this decision of the government saying that these projects on forest land were cleared in just three meetings and that too without the consent of local communities and gram sabhas.
The government, while abrogating the Articles 370 and 35A said that anyone who did not wish to sell his / her lands, would have the full liberty to do so. However, with new industries looking to come in, corporates may now be able to buy land from peasants or from the government.
It has been historically observed that state governments have been acquiring land throughout the country by subverting the rights of landowners and bending the law. In terms of J&K, there has been no assessment on the displacement of people and their proper rehabilitation in case of industries being set up. Also, the impact on the ecosystem heavy industries will have, has not been taken into account.
The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (RFCTLARR) that takes into account the social impact and the consent, compensation, resettlement and rehabilitation needs of the people. Will the Centre and state take a holistic view of the issues of land owners and ensure that their livelihoods will not be affected by the corporates?