J&K Govt loses Rs 100 Cr property in Kolkata
Farooq’s CAS dream finally shatters in Omar’s NC-Congress regime
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, Jan 2: With the completion of its first year, Omar Abdullah’s National Conference-led coalition government has shattered Dr Farooq Abdullah’s dream of raising a Kisan Ghar and Controlled Atmosphere Storage (CAS) for the benefit of the state fruit growers in Kolkata as the Government of West Bengal has finally revoked the allotment of seven Kanals of prime land made in 1988. This huge embarrassment for the coalition government has come as a result of the successive regimes’ failure in responding to scores of notices of the Department of Housing & Urban Development and consequently failing to create the facility for which the land had been allotted nearly 20 ago.
Highly placed authoritative sources revealed to Early Times that Government of West Bengal’s Department of Housing & Urban Development (H&UD) has finally canceled allotment of seven Kanals of prime land, valued at more than Rs 100 Cr, which had been made in favour of the Government of Jammu & Kashmir for a period of 999 years in 1988. According to these sources, the allotment has been withdrawn as the coalition government has failed to honour its final commitment of starting the work in March 2009.
As exclusively disclosed by Early Times in its issue of June 18th, 2009, Principal Secretary R K Pradhan had asked his subordinate officials to start process of cancellation of the lease of 6.82 Kanals of land that had been granted to Government of J&K for raising a Kisan Ghar in Sector 3 and a CAS in Sector 5 of Salt Lake area of Kolkata on 16th of January 1988. This prime land had been allotted to J&K Government for a song for 999 years in the wake of then Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah’s sustained persuasion with his West Bengal counterpart Jyoti Basu.
Even after an undertaking of starting the work “within March 2009”, Government in Srinagar and Jammu slept over the notices of the West Bengal government, forcing the latter to take the extreme decision of cancellation of the 1000-year lease within 20 years.
Minister incharge Horticulture in Omar Abdullah’s government, Sham Lal Sharma, confirmed that Government of West Bengal had withdrawn the lease last week. He, nevertheless, expressed optimism that his personal persuasion would convince the West Bengal government to go for reconsideration. “I am leaving for Calcutta very much today. I’m sure they will reconsider and give us a last chance to build the Kisan Ghar and CAS on the same land”, Sham Lal told Early Times.
Omar Abdullah government was ironically well aware of the urgency of responding to the notices of the West Bengal government. Reads a note put up to Chief Minister: “….but in the meeting on 19-02-2009 it was understood that West Bengal Government have run out of patience and gathered an impression that J&K Government is not at all interested in the project and thereby they (J&K Govt) seek extensions only without any cogent reasons”. Even an amount of Rs 10 Lakh had been earmarked for raising the boundary wall. Still the work never started till it lapsed on March 31, 2009.
In May 2009, Chief Minister desired Minister incharge Horticulture to visit Kolkata and submit his report on the subject. That did not happen in the last seven months. Mr Sharma has now set out for West Bengal but only after the lease has been withdrawn.
Failing to break slumber of Dr Abdullah’s own government in 1988-1990, followed by Governor’s administration in 1990-1996 and yet again Dr Abdullah’s regime in 1996-2000, Government of West Bengal cancelled the lease vide Order No: WB-4433 on 11th December 2000. J&K Government did not even take the allotted land into its possession till December 2000. It ignored all the notices and warnings from Kolkata and did not honour the condition of raising the structures in three years. Consequently, Government of West Bengal imposed a penalty of Rs 52,000 in 1995 which was shamelessly paid by Governor’s administration on 17th April 1995. Continued slumber of J&K Government for 12 years led to cancellation of the lease on December 11th, 2000.
In 2003, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed did a lot of persuasion with the Government of West Bengal and succeeded in getting the lease restored on the condition that the project would be completed “within three years”. Consequent upon the desired disposal of a compromise suit filed jointly by Governments of West Bengal and J&K in a civil court in Kolkata, Government of West Bengal restored lease rights of both the plots vide Order No: WB-834 on 18th November 2004 and thereafter possession in favour of Government of J&K vide Order No: WB-316 on 22nd February 2005. Government of J&K gave yet another undertaking that it would complete the project in the next three years i.e before 22nd March 2008.
Even as dozens of officials from Directorate of Horticulture (Planning & Marketing) as also senior bureaucrats kept shuttling on pleasure trips between Srinagar, New Delhi and Kolkata, paid penalty of Rs 52,000 in 1995 for sustained default and even remuneration of Rs 5 Lakh to a consultancy for preparing a Detailed Project Report (DPR) in 2006, it never started any work. Multinational companies and giants in the corporate sector raised huge buildings around this area but seven Kanals of the land in possession of J&K Government turned into a slum. Reports say that dengue and other mosquito-spread diseases caused casualties when slum-dwellers occupied the land and turned it into a septic basin.
Mufti succeeded in getting fresh lease of life for Dr Abdullah dream project but neither he nor his successors---Ghulam Nabi Azad and Governor N N Vohra---started any work on the facility that would have come up as a boon for J&K’s fruit growers and traders in a potentially strong market. Unless retrieved---that seems to be a remote possibility now--- it has finally died its death ironically in Omar Abdullah’s NC-Congress coalition regime, exactly 21 years after it was allotted in Dr Farooq Abdullah’s NC-Congress coalition.