Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Corruption Without Limits

Fayyaz describes how state administrators are planning the biggest land scam in the valley

(Mr. Ahmed Ali Fayyaz, 48, was born in Bodina, Budgam, and received his primary and secondary education in Budgam and later at Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He completed his Master's degree in Kashmiri language and literature from the University of Kashmir in 1987. After working with Rashtriya Sahara and Kashmir Times in 1993-94, and later for 13 years as Srinagar Bureau Chief of Daily Excelsior, he is woking as Resident Editor/ Srinagar Bureau Chief of Jammu-based English daily Early Times since April 2009. He is also a filmmaker whose forte in audio-visual media is Kashmir's composite culture, heritage, ecology and social issues. Since February 2008, he has been regularly anchoring Take One Television's bi-weekly hard talk show "Face To Face With Ahmed Ali Fayyaz" which is watched by more than three million viewers in Srinagar, Jammu and other urban areas of Jammu & Kashmir.)

Biggest Land Acquisition Scam in the Making in CM's own Ganderbal

Srinagar: Chief Minister's snubbing of the District revenue authorities over their failure in acquiring land for the Central University campus at a high level review meeting last month has failed to break the jinx. Unfazed by the dressing down, the Revenue authorities are persisting with their controversial plans of taking over thousands of Kanals of the private agriculture land on exorbitant rates. Triple the area required for the campus is readily available from the government's own reserve but the land acquisition, according to residents and informed official sources, is underway with the intention of paying double---even triple---the market value to the owners and subsequently sharing the "profit" on 50:50 basis.

According to well placed authoritative sources, an area of 4,000 Kanal of land is required for raising of the campus of the Central University at Tulmullah, in Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's Assembly constituency of Ganderbal. Even as 15,000 Kanals of the government land is readily available, Revenue officials are bent upon acquiring private agriculture land from farmers of several villages. Expanse of the usable government land is spread over the adjoining Rakh-e-Tulmullah, Rakh-e-Wakoora, Rakh-e-Rabitaar, Rakh-e-Gogjigund, Rakh-e-Kurhama, Rakh-e-Sehpora and Rakh-e-Saloora.

Since Government of India is providing hundreds of Crores of Rupees for the land compensation, Revenue authorities want to grab the opportunity on the pattern of some previous land acquisitions in Ganderbal district. Residents insist that the modus operandi used in acquisition of land for the purpose of widening of Srinagar-Leh highway is being invoked in the matter of acquiring land for the Central University.

"Revenue officials have made huge money in recent land acquisitions in Ganderbal district by two methods: They approach the owners through their agents, fix double or triple the market value and release their payment on the condition that the extra amount would be shared between the officials and the owners on 50:50 basis. The land owners readily agree as it is a win-win situation for both", revealed a well-informed official source. He added that even different types of government land at several places had been fraudulently shown as "private land" and the compensation thereto had been drawn from the treasury and shared with local operatives of the mafia.

He claimed that just one Revenue official, enjoying even an honest Minister's goodwill, had earned over Rs 3 Crore in the dubious land acquisition for the highway and the same official had purchased land under benami arrangement for himself at several places in Ganderbal-Kangan belt---as much as 18 Kanal at one spot. Same Kashmir Administrative Service official, according to informed sources, is now assiduously making plans to go for private land acquisition. Sources revealed that the Revenue officials calling the shots in the whole deal had even prepared an alternative plan, in case Government decided to acquire its own land in the Rakhs. In this case, a fixed amount of Rs 40,000 per Kanal would be paid on the Rakh-e-Aarth pattern to the licensed farmers who have taken possession of the Rakh land in the last over 100 years and have been paying a minor amount annually to the Department of Rakhs and Farms.

Though only 800 Kanal of such government land is under the legitimate possession of bona fide farmers in Rakh-e-Kurhama, Ganderbal Revenue authorities have already shown as much as 1300 Kanals under such occupation. Currently agents are being created with the plan that they would project themselves as bona fide occupants of the land and claim Rs 40,000 per Kanal. Sources said that this fraudulently drawn money would be shared on 25:75 basis. Rs 30,000 per Kanal would straightaway go to the Revenue authorities. "That is exactly what was done in Rakh-e-Aarth, where Lakes and Waterways Develoment Authority is currently raising a colony on 7,000 Kanals of land", revealed the sources.

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