As his legacy, Farooq Abdullah had a rich political career and with that, came a free hand to govern Jammu & Kashmir, for the past many decades. As is the case with dynastic parties in India, the government had less to do with governance and more to do with leveraging public resources for vested interests. Since the repeal of article 370 and 35A, the level of corruption in the National Conference Party is coming out in the public sphere, leading to the inevitable fall of the glorious legacy.
The most recent such instance of corruption is the Roshni scam. Last month, on October 9, Jammu and Kashmir High Court held the Roshni Act unconstitutional and had ordered a CBI probe, asking for a list of beneficiaries. As per the order of the High Court, a list of 868 names has been released of such individuals who illegally grabbed land in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act 2001, also known as the Roshni Act, was introduced by the Farooq Abdullah government. The act granted legal ownership rights to those who had occupied government land in Jammu and Kashmir across several decades, on payment of a fee. This meant any person who has illegally encroached government land could pay a minimal amount and be the legal owner of prime government land.
What followed was hundreds of acres of forest and state land being illegally transferred to influential politicians, bureaucrats, government officials, and businessmen. This also led to corrupt individuals taking undue advantage by purchasing land from the poor people for their own benefits.
The list of fraudsters includes Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah. According to Jammu and Kashmir administration, 0.9 acres of government land in Jammu has been allegedly encroached by them for “residential” purpose. The list also includes other National Conference politicians including, Syed Akhoon, Aslam Goni, Haroon Chowdhary, Sujjad Kichloo, and Abdul Majid Wani who are alleged to have encroached on government land. Former PDP leader Haseeb Drabu and three of his relatives and Congress treasurer KK Amla and three of his family members also featured in the list. It is thus, evident that the region was looted by powerful leaders and the people under the guise of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.
The Roshni Act came about in 2001 and had set the cut-off date for regularising unauthorised land as 1990. However, such is the greed of the politicians that successive government under Mufti Muhammad Sayeed pushed the cut-off date from 1990 to 2004. Thereafter, the Congress government under Ghulam Nabi Azad, in a decision arising out of vested interests, once again shifted the cut-off date to 2007. The quantum of scam is allegedly pegged at Rs 25,000 crore.
The Roshni act came into existence to generate funds for power upgradation in the region. However, under mismanagement, vested interests and gross corruption, power generation became the last priority of the implementation of the scheme. Even after regularising over 75,000 acres of land in Jammu and Kashmir, the government managed to raise only Rs 76 crore from the original target of Rs 25,000 crore.
Eventually, the scam came into light when the first red flag was first raised by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India in 2014. Successively, in 2018, the Jammu and Kashmir administration under Governor Satyapal Malik repealed the Roshni Act and ordered a CBI inquiry into the scam. It is disgraceful for the likes of Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti that while they were busy enjoying the fruits of a corrupt administration at the cost of taxpayers, it took the fall of their regime to end the practice.
On another positive note, the Jammu and Kashmir government has issued an order to cancel all land transfers that took place under the Roshni Act and has set up a committee to recover the land. It is evident that after the removal of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, the central government is setting the union territory on the path to development and prosperity.
Moreover, this is just the first list of beneficiaries; others, no doubt, will soon come into the light too. Thus, as glorious a political career that Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and other leaders of NC and PDP had, their dirty politics and scams will certainly lead to an ignoble end.