Roshni Scam: Charges Against Farooq Abdullah Malicious, Says NC

The J&K National Conference led by Farooq Abdullah questioned timing of allegations as it comes ahead of DDC polls.

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Politics
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Farooq Abdullah advocates immediate Governor rule in Kashmir. 
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The J&K National Conference dismissed allegations of land grab against party president Farooq Abdullah and former J&K CM Omar Abdullah as unfounded and unwarranted on Wednesday, 25 November.

This comes after Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad alleged that key leaders of the erstwhile J&K state, including Farooq Abdullah, used their ‘influence and power for land grabbing’. Prasad has demanded a thorough probe into the ‘Roshni scam’.

This comes just ahead of the District Development Council (DDC) polls in Jammu and Kashmir that’s set to begin on Saturday, 28 November.

What is the ‘Roshni Scam’?

The ‘Roshni scam’ derives its name from the controversial Roshni Act. In 2001, the J&K legislative Assembly passed the Act to give ownership rights to holders of state land under the Roshni scheme. The Act that granted legal ownership rights to those who held government land in Jammu and Kashmir over several decades was passed when Farooq Abdullah’s NC was a part of the BJP-led NDA government.

The Act, however, was amended by subsequent governments and land was sold at concessional rates. While the scheme was started to raise Rs 25,000 crore to build hydropower projects, it ended up raising only Rs 76 crore. 

Under the Act, about 2.06 million kanals of land was to be transferred to the existing occupants. One kanal equals 605 square yards. The initial estimate of the revenue this would generate was about Rs 25,448 crore, that would be invested in J&K‘s power sector, reported Economic Times.

According to a CAG report in 2014, the actual transfer of 3,48,160 kanals of land in J&K was supposed to amass Rs 327.54 crore. However, it brought in just Rs 76.24 crore instead.

In 2018, then Governor Satya Pal Malik repealed the Roshni Act and cancelled all pending applications. In October 2020, the J&K High Court declared the Act unconstitutional and declared all land rights given under it, null and void. The court also asked the government to publish the names of political leaders who have been given land at throwaway prices.

What Are The Allegations Against Farooq Abdullah?

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad alleged that in 1998, Farooq Abdullah had purchased 3 kanals of land but he encroached upon 7 kanals of land, which was double the size of purchase. Prasad also alleged that Farooq Abdullah's sister Suraiya Mattu’s name has also appeared in the case.

He alleged that Mattu is also a beneficiary of 3 kanals of land. "There was a conscious land loot by the powerful people of J&K who were getting benefits under the Roshni Act which was declared unconstitutional by the J&K High Court. This is low level politics by the powerful people of J&K and we condemn it,” said Ravi Shankar Prasad.

How Have Farooq Abdullah and NC Responded?

NC chief Farooq Abdullah rubbished the allegations against him and told NDTV, "I have purchased every inch of land where my house was built in 1998. Falsehood is being unleashed to defame me."

In a statement, the J&K National Conference said, “With respect to the land at Jammu on which the residential house of Dr. Abdullah is built, all allegations with respect to any encroachments are unequivocally denied. It is also clarified that such land has nothing to do with Roshni scheme.”

“The malicious nature of the allegations are laid bare by the fact that even though Mr. Omar Abdullah does not own the land but actually lives with his father in Jammu as he does in Srinagar. Yet in order to hype up a frenzy, his name has been added to the list and released by the government.”
Statement by J&K NC 

The party questioned the timing of the allegations as it coincides with the DDC and ULB elections. It further questioned the government’s decision not to challenge the high court order.

“It is surprising that while similar acts of conversion of leasehold property into freehold property on similar conversion charges is in vogue in other parts of the country including Delhi, Gujarat and Maharashtra, yet the same legislative exercise in J&K was declared unconstitutional and the administration chose to do nothing about it,” the statement read.

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