Other States

Roshni scam, a tale of full-fledged cover-up

Principal Accountant-General Subhash Chander Pandey has said Jammu and Kashmir officials made “every possible attempt” to cover up the Rs. 25,000-crore Roshni land scam during an audit exercise in 2013.

In an interaction with presspersons here on Saturday, he described the Roshni Scheme as the “biggest-ever land scam” in the State, pointing out that officials right from the Commissioner-Secretary, Revenue, to deputy commissioners treated each request from his office with contempt and tried to withhold the information and documents sought by the auditors.

When things came to a head after months of persuasion, he took up the issue with Chief Secretary Iqbal Khanday and Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister Bharat Bhushan Vyas, both of whom also failed to help, he said, forcing the auditors to limit their exercise to a few cases of land transfer.

“We wanted to explore how the Executive had made and changed the rules without getting them ratified by the Legislature, leading to a revenue loss of Rs. 25,000 crore. We wanted to know under what legal authority the officers had changed land use and category, gifted away the agriculture category of the grabbed State lands free of cost and granted huge rebates to the commercial category. We were keen to see who waived the stamp duty and under what legal authority. But almost the entire information was concealed, and we were told that the Comptroller and Auditor-General could not interfere with the matters of the Cabinet,” Mr. Pandey said.

Watch | What is the Roshni Act?

“Consequently, we examined just 447 cases of non-agricultural land, covering 666 Kanals in only six districts and detected a loss of Rs. 225 crore. Officials were found to have fixed the lowest rates and given huge rebates to the occupants. That is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Thus, the revenue loss in executing the transfer of five lakh Kanals (coupled with unauthorised occupation of 20 lakh Kanals) could only be imagined, he said.

Mr. Pandey confirmed reports that only Rs. 76 crore was collected from Roshni land transfers in a decade, though the government, while introducing the Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership with the Occupants) Act in 2002, had set a Rs. 25,000-crore target, for funding power projects.

“Non-cooperation of the officers compelled us to prepare a draft report on the basis of the outcome of test-checked cases, and it was submitted to the government on July 31, 2013, but again there was no response,” he said. The final report was published and submitted to the government, the Governor and the Legislature after issuing notice to the Revenue Secretary.

“Now it is up to the Legislature to decide what action is required to be taken in this case. After all, the Rules, which became the tool for misuse of the scheme, were framed by ignoring the Legislature,” he said. “Even the Governor is seized of the issue as it was only after his approval that the CAG reports were tabled in the Legislature.”

Mr. Pandey has requested the State Vigilance Commission to order a criminal investigation into the scam. With over 20 IAS and Kashmir Administrative Service officers under a cloud, the Vigilance organisation has registered the first FIR involving a former Divisional Commissioner and two IAS officers, now Secretaries to government. None of the officials of the Revenue Department and the Jammu Development Authority has been named so far.

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Printable version | Jan 12, 2021 5:36:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/roshni-scam-a-tale-of-full-fledged-cover-up/article11405052.ece

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