Jammu: Government has repealed 11 Land Laws that existed in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir “replacing the old, regressive, intrinsically contradictory and outdated laws with a set of modern, progressive and people friendly provisions.”
The new land laws will not only afford protection to over 90% of the land in J&K from being alienated to outsiders but will also help revamp the agriculture sector foster, rapid industrialization, aid economic growth and create jobs in J&K.
This was stated by the Principal Secretary, Information and government spokesman, Rohit Kansal at a press conference in Jammu today. Kansal made these comments while interacting with the media on a host of issues related to the UT of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of State Laws) Fifth Order, 2020.
Elaborating, Kansal remarked that the repealed laws were made to serve the old agrarian based economy and were required to be modified for modern economic needs. Besides, they were beset with ambiguities, contradictions and redundancies and in many cases, were clearly regressive. For instance, A number of Laws had contradictions leading to scope for discretionary interpretation and rent seeking e.g. ‘Family’ was defined differently in different laws, provision of alienation and conversion of land were different in different Laws and the ceiling of 182 kanals fixed in Big Landed Estates Abolition Act was superseded by 100 standard kanals in the Agrarian Reforms act, 1976, yet both provisions continued to coexist creating contradiction and confusion.
The Prohibition of Conversion of Land and Alienation of Orchards Act, 1975 not only prohibited alienation of orchard lands; it surprisingly restricted creation of new orchards too. Similarly, the old Agrarian Reforms Act prohibited the selling of land distributed to tillers even after 44 years. The Right of Prior Purchase Act severely constrained an owner’s right to dispose off his own property.
The new Land Laws are modern and progressive even while affording adequate protection against alienation of land to outsiders. A number of protections have been built into the new land laws on similar lines as has been enacted in other states such as Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. To begin with, no agricultural land can be transferred to any person from outside the UT of J&K but can only be sold to an agriculturist from within J&K. No land used for agricultural purpose can be used for any non-agricultural purpose. The terms agricultural land and agriculturist have been unambiguously defined to include not just agriculture but horticulture and allied agro-activities as well. Agriculturist has been defined as “.. a person who cultivates land personally in the UT of J&K..”. The safeguard on agricultural land alone would ensure that more than 90 percent of land in the UT which is an agricultural land remains protected and with the people of J&K.
The new provisions not only address the infirmities in the old set of laws but also provide for modern and enabling provisions to aid in the agricultural and industrial growth of the UT of J&K. While progressive provisions of the repealed laws have been retained by including them in the modified Land Revenue Act, new provisions have been added to modernize existing laws. There are now provisions for setting up of a Board of Revenue, Regional planning for regulating use of land, alienation and conversion, land lease, consolidation and Contract Farming. The Board of Revenue comprising senior officers will not only be the Developing Authority for preparing regional plans but can notify a scheme of consolidation of land holdings and also a scheme for restricting and regulating the fragmentation of agricultural land holdings to make agriculture viable.
September was the worst month in J&K on covid-19 front given the steep rise in the infections as well as the deaths. Between September 1 and 30, 37372 people tested positive for the pestilence with the total tally reaching 75070. The cases reported in the single month were almost equal to the infections reported ever since the first case reported was on March 7.
In the month of August, 20359 cases were reported, thus recording a surge of 183% in September. However there has been a decline in the number of cases since the beginning of October and the trend continued throughout the autumn month as 19715 were confirmed to be infected, registering a drop of around 59 percent in cases compared to September. More importantly, the reduction in daily cases has continued despite no appreciable change in overall testing numbers as according to the official data 681179 people were tested for Covid-19 in October compared to 656363 in September.
On death count, the virus claimed 297 people in October—144 in Kashmir and 153 in Jammu.
By the end of September, the number of those who succumbed to virus was 1184 people. In the month of August 323 deaths were reported as the toll was 705, meaning thereby that 479 died in September due to the covid-19, registering a decrease of 38 percent in deaths.
As the data shows, there is a definite slowing down of the cases in the past few months, the people should not lower the guard and the government should increase or maintain the number of tests done. While peaking and a reduction in cases is a good sign that could ease the strain on the health infrastructure, the danger the pestilence poses is still real. The dip in cases may turn out to be just a statistical blip as the second surge and heightened spread cannot be ruled out especially during the winter. A case in example is Britain where the prime minister ordered back into a lockdown after the kingdom passed the grim milestone of one million Covid-19 cases and the second wave of infections threatened to overwhelm the health service. Most of the restrictions on the covid-19 front in J&K have been eased as the economic strain peaked as a consequence of the extended lockdown. People must not get complacent about the drop in the virus cases and should religiously observe norms of social distancing, mask wearing and hand hygiene till there is an affordable vaccine available.
After reporting over 97,650 novel coronavirus cases on September 11, the largest number ever reported on a single day by any country till then (the U.S. registered 99,780 cases on October 30), India has been witnessing a steady fall in daily fresh cases reported since mid-September. Since October 25, there have been fewer than 50,000 new cases every day, except on one. More importantly, the reduction in daily cases has continued despite no appreciable drop in overall testing numbers, a trend quite pronounced in States that bore the brunt of the pandemic — Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu. It is quite clear that the pandemic has peaked by spreading through the major densely populated cities, leaving lakhs infected and thousands dead, but there is a definite slowing down in these areas. Since August, cases had already started to pile up beyond urban areas in rural districts. It is unclear whether the drop in daily cases and deaths registered in the urban areas is playing itself out similarly in rural areas as well, as unlike urban areas, the protocols for testing, treatment, isolation are not as diligently followed because of gaps in the rural health infrastructure across States. This is something State Health Departments need to follow up on.
There is evidence from other disease surveillance in the past that States with better primary health and sentinel infrastructure across topographies, urban or rural, have recorded diseases better. For example, the reporting of HIV cases in Maharashtra and the southern States resulted in the recording of more cases while Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and a few other north Indian States reported fewer cases. The absence of evidence is, after all, not the evidence of absence and Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and others must not become complacent about the drop in cases, and must continue to increase their respective testing rates to keep pace with the rest of India. While peaking and a reduction in cases is a good sign that could ease the strain on the health infrastructure, the danger the virus poses is still real. The dip in cases may turn out to be just a statistical blip, with a second surge and heightened spread waiting to happen in the winter, particularly as people partake in the festive season. States have started to ease restrictions on schooling, commercial activities and have even allowed theatres and malls to open to spur the consumption economy severely affected by the lockdowns. The easing was unavoidable as the economic strain was becoming as much of a problem for people as COVID-19 was to their health. Citizens must not get complacent about the drop in cases and should continue to observe norms of social distancing, mask wearing and hand hygiene till vaccines made available prove their efficacy.