Srinagar: People’s Conference president Sajad Gani Lone on Saturday said a policy should be framed to define criteria for identifying the poor and vest them with ownership rights.
He made this statement amidst an eviction drive by the Jammu and Kashmir administration against illegal encroachments on the government land.
In a letter, Lone urged Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to issue a formal, unambiguous order, which spares the poor and makes a distinction between possession borne out of necessity and possession borne out of the land grab.
“I am taking the liberty of writing to you about the government’s drive to retrieve state land and grazing land under the possession of private people. There have been voices across the social and political spectrum to spare the poorer sections of the society,” he said.
“We too have tried to raise awareness about the actual composition of the unlawful possession of the state land and unambiguously advocate that the poor should be spared,” Lone said.
He said the possession in the rural areas is borne out of necessity and is a practice which has gone on unhindered for decades.
“And no government ever challenged it because it made JK a unique state, where there is almost negligible homelessness. The vast majority of possession in the rural areas comprises of small land holdings, with a small humble house made by the owners,” he said.
These small holdings are scattered and they will be of no use to the government, but they will make a poor family homeless, the letter said.
Referring to Sinha’s announcement that the poor will not be touched, Lone said while it was very gracious of the LG, in the absence of a formal order, it is the poor who are being touched.
“I am writing to request you to issue a formal, unambiguous order, which spares the poor and makes a distinction between possession borne out of necessity and possession borne out of land grab,” Lone, a former minister, said.
In the absence of a clear order, the PC chief said, reports of bullying and corrupt practices have come to light.
“May I add that possession without ownership papers has all along been susceptible to blackmailing for decades. These poor souls have all along been bullied into paying bribes for not having the ownership papers,” he said.
“You have a chance of a lifetime to end all the blackmailing and give these poorest sections of society a chance to live a life of dignity with no fear of bullying or blackmailing,” Lone said.
“Let us hope and pray that you are able to seize the opportunity and make history for the poorest sections of the society. If you do so, it would be distinctively remembered as a historical milestone and a supreme act of statesmanship,” he added.