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Illegal Construction in Green Belt Areas of Kashmir?

Sumedha Pal |
The residents said that the construction activities have been initiated without paying any heed to the legal formalities.
Illegal Construction in Green Belt Areas of Kashmir?

Image Courtesy: Kashmir News service

More than sixty days after the abrogation of Article 370—which took the statehood away from Jammu and Kashmir—illegal construction is picking up pace in the region. Locals from Srinagar have alleged that builders are taking advantage of the lockdown and are starting construction in the green belt areas—where it is prohibited. The residents said that the construction activities have been initiated without paying any heed to the legal formalities.

Locals said, “Scores of trucks are plying with contruction material. This is happening in the late hours of the day and at night as well—more so in the green belt areas  around Dal Lake.”

Fayaz Mir, Rajya Sabha MP and member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), said, “We have heard of this taking place; however, with the lockdown, we are not able to politically respond to this situation. This needs to be immediately stopped, but with no mechanism in place, that task is becoming exceedingly difficult and vested interests are using the situation for their benefit.”

The divisional administration had previously tried to impose a ban on the movement of trucks in the city; however, that did not yield any results. Government land is also being allegedly annexed and land acquisition has been reportedly accelerated, which is evident from the number of projects being sanctioned.

The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC), headed by BVR Subhramanyam, in a meeting held earlier this month cleared over 48 proposals regarding the use of 137 hectares of forest land for roads, railways, projects in power and education sector.

This also includes two proposals for the army and the Border Security Force.

While flagging off the acquisition process, the chief secretary issued directions on the bare minimum felling of trees, compensatory afforestation and use of alternate land. However, with no mechanism in place to check the construction activity, locals fear losing their lands and resources to the corporate companies, which have shown great interest in the region post the revocation of Article 370 and 35A.

Article 35A allowed the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to define permanent residents of the state. It was inserted through the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954, which was issued by President Rajendra Prasad under Article 370, on the advice of the Nehru-led Union Government.) The article forbade outsiders from permanently settling, buying land, holding local government jobs or winning education scholarships in the region.

Post the abrogation, there was a spree of rhetoric over Indians being able to buy land in Kashmir; several fake messages in the name of property retailers were also circulated.

In addition to this, Reliance Industries Limited chairman Mukesh Ambani had also announced that the group will make several announcements related to investment in the newly formed Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh in the upcoming days. Mukesh Ambani also said that the Reliance Group will set up a special task force focused on making investments in Jammu and Kashmir.

Also read: Kashmir: Why Amit Shah’s ‘Development’ Argument is a Hoax

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