Concern Over New Rule On Land Lease In Jammu And Kashmir


Srinagar:

Owners of hundreds of businesses in Jammu and Kashmir, including hotels at the skiing resort Gulmarg, are worried that they might have to close down after a new land law has come into effect in the Union Territory.

Sources said the administration has refused to renew the lease of outgoing lessees and decided to outsource it through online auction. The administration has also asked the owners to hand over possession immediately, failing which they shall be evicted, sources said.

Opposition parties have strongly reacted to the administration’s decision to bring the new law into effect. They say the move is aimed at giving the land to outsiders, dispossessing local businessmen and entrepreneurs.

Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has said land laws in Jammu and Kashmir were “regressive”. The land laws were “not framed keeping in view the interests of the common masses. Around 40 to 45 per cent cases in various courts are due to land disputes,” Mr Sinha has said.

According to the J&K Land Grant Rules, 2022, which had replaced J&K Land Grants Rules, 1960, land can be leased for education, healthcare, tourism, skill development and recreational purposes.
It can also be given to ex-servicemen, war widows, families of deprived categories, migrant workers, building and construction workers and sufferers of natural calamities.

According to the new rules, outgoing lessees will be paid for any structure built on the land, “provided the lessee has not violated any of the conditions of the lease”.

But hoteliers in skiing resort Gulmarg say the decision will shut their businesses and destroy the tourism sector.

There are 58 hotels and hutments built on leased land in Gulmarg. Except just one hotel, lease period of all other properties has expired in Gulmarg, the hoteliers say.

The government had given the land on lease for a period 40 years under the 1960 law to promote tourism.

“We were repeatedly requesting the administration to renew lease agreements and we are ready to pay as per market rates. But after dillydallying for years, they have come up with a new land rule,” said a hotelier.

“After years of turbulence in Kashmir, tourism was revived for the last few years. We have been doing good business and a large number of jobs are created in the tourism sector. The new land rules will uproot hoteliers who have invested heavily during difficult times in the Valley,” said another hotelier.

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