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Realty Bites: Jammu Welcomes Scrapping of Article 370 But Residents Want Protection from Land Sharks

Locals fear that outsiders will pour into the region and usurp land as well as business and employment opportunities after Jammu and Kashmir losing its special status.

Aakash Hassan | News18.com@Aakashhassan

Updated:September 26, 2019, 11:37 AM IST
Realty Bites: Jammu Welcomes Scrapping of Article 370 But Residents Want Protection from Land Sharks
A vendor arranges vegetables for sale early morning during restrictions after scrapping of the special constitutional status for Jammu and Kashmir by the government. (Image: Reuters)

Jammu: Many in Jammu were upbeat when the central government announced on August 5 that J&K would no longer have the special status accorded to it under Article 370 of the Constitution and the state would be restructured into two union territories. “A historic wrong had been righted” was a common refrain. For decades, sections of the Jammu population felt short-changed because of a perceived Kashmir domination in political and administrative matters.

Weeks later, the cheery mood has tempered as teething troubles have emerged.

Politicians, the trading class and young people in Jammu appear less optimistic. A fear of losing land, business and jobs because of the historic change is spiralling.

Across political and business circles, the demand for bringing in amendments to The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill in a bid to protect the land rights of locals is growing louder.

“We have been in touch with the government and have conveyed that there should be some riders on the purchase of land,” said Rakesh Gupta, president of the Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industries.

The business community in Jammu fears that without any restrictions on buying of land, the sale and purchase costs will soar to unprecedented levels.

“The common people will not be able to buy land here,” said Gupta, adding that “the reorganisation bill should not mean real estate business”.

“There should be serious buyers and the government should fix a time frame after which they can sell that land,” he said.

Gupta supports the abrogation of clauses in Article 370 and believes that they were discriminatory in many ways. But without amendments to the reorganisation bill, he says, Jammu will end up with losses.

College student Nikhil Manhas, 22, has been supportive of the government’s move, but says he is feeling growing insecurity.

“Now companies from outside will establish units here which will create jobs. But the worry is that people from other states will apply for these jobs,” said Manhas, adding that there should be a “limited quota in employment for outsiders”.

Even political leaders across parties say the reorganisation bill is key to Jammu’s identity.

“It is highly unlikely that companies will procure land or start a manufacturing unit in Kashmir valley because of the situation there and the climate. The intrusion of people from outside will affect Jammu region, especially the areas of Kathua, Jammu and Udhampur,” said a BJP leader, wishing to remain anonymous.

J&K Congress president Ghulam Ahmad Mir, who is under house detention in Jammu, says the region is likely to suffer the most.

“It is now a matter of identity and culture of the people who are living in Jammu,” he told News18 over the phone.

“When outside companies come here, they will get the land and people from other states will pour in and outnumber the local inhabitants. The culture will go, and there will not be a piece of land which locals would be able to afford,” he said.

Another political leader and former minister of the state, who is under house arrest and not authorised to speak to the media, said he believes that the decision of the government has intensified the demand for a separate Jammu.

“The people believe that they are suffering because of the situation in Kashmir and thus Jammu should be made a separate state with special land rights,” he told News18 over the phone.

Others are pulling up their socks for the challenges ahead.

“We should gear up to compete with business houses from outside,” said Rakesh Gupta.

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