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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Budgam ADC sleeps over State Times RTI but Div Com asks DC to retrieve Humhama land

Friends Enclave residents complain nexus between land grabbers and Revenue officials

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Nov 20: Even as the Revenue authorities in Budgam district are continuously sleeping over an application seeking information about the community and the State land grabbed by a large number of influential people in the posh Friends Enclave, Humhama Estate and Gogoland, close to Srinagar Airport, Kashmir Divisional Commissioner Dr Asgar Hassan Samoon on Friday took cognizance of the complaints from the residents and directed Deputy Commissioner of Budgam Altaf Mir to immediately remove all the encroachments in accordance to law.

“Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Dr Asgar Hassan Samoon today asked Deputy Commissioner Budgam to remove all the encroachments in Humhama area. The Commissioner issued the instructions after the residents from Friends Enclave Humhama apprised him with their issues during a meeting. Dr Samoon asked Deputy Commissioner Budgam to clear all kinds of encroachments including those on Kahcharai land in the area”, an official e-mail issued to the media by Directorate of Information this evening said.

Attempts to contact Dr Samoon on telephone did not succeed but informed sources disclosed that a delegation of the residents of Friends Enclave complained to him that Revenue authorities in Budgam district were “hand-in-glove” with a well-connected land mafia and the legal action, initiated by Tehsildar and Naib Tehsildar of Budgam sometime back, had stalled under pressure from “powerful people”.

“Tehsildar and Naib Tehsildar have been threatened of dire consequences if they enforced the eviction notices delivered on the land grabbers a long time ago. They have been directed by senior officials not to share any information with media. It’s a tantamount to total breakdown of the rule of law”, residents, according to sources, complained to Divisional Commissioner who himself happens to be a resident of Friends Enclave.

As already reported by this newspaper, State and kahcharai land of 335 Kanals, valued at Rs 335 crore, has been found to have been encroached upon and grabbed by different powerful people. A survey conducted by a former Tehsildar and Naib Tehsildar led to issuance of notices to the identified land grabbers. However, no substantive action was initiated against them. Those identified as the land grabbers include a Cabinet Minister of Omar Abdullah’s NC-Congress coalition government, a former Chief Town Planner, around a dozen of senior and middle-rung KAS and IAS officers besides six senior Police officers including retired IGPs, DIGs and SSPs.

Kahcharai land grabbing assumed menacing proportions to the extent that on one occasion, a former Revenue Minister’s Police guards and a former Chief Secretary’s security staff took out guns against each other in an attempt to annexe 10 marlas of kahcharai land on behalf of their VIPs. It led to registration of FIRs and counter-FIRs at Humhama Police Division. Invariably the modus operandi has been allotment of a piece of land from J&K Housing Cooperative and subsequently annexing adjacent kahcharai strips.

“This is total dereliction of duty and the delinquent Revenue officials must be taken to task. We are going to approach J&K High Court and seeking action against both, the land grabbers as well as the delinquent Revenue officials by name in a PIL already filed in the court”, eminent lawyer and activist Sheikh Shakeel Ahmad said.

RTI application ignored

On July 7, 2015, STATE TIMES filed an application under RTI Act before Public Information Officer of Revenue Department in Budgam district (Additional Deputy Commissioner Mr Qadri), seeking details about the kahcharai and the State land grabbed in Friends Enclave, Humhama Estate and Gogoland besides particulars of the land grabbers, their official and public position and the notices served on them. It also sought reasons how the follow up action had got stalled without any plausible reason, and the particulars of the officers who acted as Deputy Commissioners, Tehsildars, Naib Tehsildars, Girdawars and Patwaris in the said area.

Even as the ADC was bound by law to provide details within a month, he did not respond either to the application or to the reminders. On September 7, 2015, STATE TIMES filed the First Appeal under RTI Act before the appellate authority (DC Budgam). He too chose to ignore the appeal for over two months forcing the applicant to file second appeal before State Information Commission.


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