No decision has been taken to either transfer any new land or declare areas outside cantonments or army land as strategic

The past few days have seen a sustained misinformation campaign against the Jammu and Kashmir government’s decision to remove multiple hurdles in the way of construction in “Strategic Areas” by the armed forces.

An amendment to the Jammu and Kashmir Development Act, 1970, by the Union Territory’s Administrative Council said that construction in such areas would be regulated through a “special dispensation”.

The usual suspects, including some political parties, have twisted the administration’s move to portray that land was being transferred to the armed forces.

They have even gone a step further, describing it as an instance of the entire Union Territory (UT) of Jammu and Kashmir being turned into a military establishment.

Nothing can be farther from the truth:

  • No new land in Jammu and Kashmir is being transferred to the armed forces.

  • There is no move to declare areas outside cantonments or army land as strategic.

  • The changes are intended to facilitate much-needed infrastructure for “direct operational” as well as “training” requirements.

  • The existing laws and norms for development in the UT will continue to apply to these “Strategic Areas”.

  • ‘Baseless comments’, ‘mindless representations’

    In a detailed statement issued on Sunday, the government has reiterated the objectives as well as refuted “baseless comments being made without reading facts”.

    Requesting people not to believe “these mindless misrepresentations and misgivings,” the government laid out all the facts and explained the rationale as well as the importance of the decision.

    “Land in Jammu and Kashmir is not being transferred to the Indian Army and existing norms relating to development will continue to be followed,” it said.

    The fact of the matter was that “the decision has nothing to do with the transfer of any land to the Armed Forces” and acquisition or requisition of land continued to be governed by the existing law & norms, it said.

    No decision had been taken “to either transfer any new land or declare areas outside cantonment or army land as strategic,” said the statement.

    It referred to the existing government policy to regulate and harmonize the requirement of land by the armed forces “to meet the demands of development as well as internal security”.

    The Army was not only entrusted with the responsibility of defending the boundaries of J&K & Ladakh; it was also involved in combating insurgency, the government pointed out.

    Explaining the reasons for the decision, the government said that the armed forces had flagged multiple issues that kept cropping up during the development of infrastructure that were “not only cumbersome & time-consuming, but at times go against strategic interests”.

    Keeping in view the strategic importance of constructing such infrastr within a defined timeframe,

    The government felt the need for a special mechanism for strategic infrastructure requirements.

    This is what the amendment means

    In the notified “Strategic Areas” within “existing Armed Forces land”, the responsibility of ensuring that construction activities are undertaken as per development and environmental norms has been delegated to the Armed Forces themselves.

    Adequate safeguards have, however, been put in place to ensure the provisions are not misused.

    For instance, “only an Army Authority, not below Corps Commander”, could make a request to the Govt for earmarking such an area as strategic “only for direct operational & training requirements,” the government statement said.

    In addition to this, the government will satisfy itself about the reasons cited for declaring the areas as a “Strategic Area” before notifying the area accordingly, “to the extent and with such conditions as may be required”.

    “The special dispensation neither gives any powers to the Armed Forces to acquire more land in J&K, nor does it allow them any unbridled powers,” the statement points out.

    The move only facilitates fast tracking of the construction of strategic assets,in the overall national interest, while observing all norms like the Master Plan and laws related to the environment, the J&K administration said.