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Kashmir minister accused of illegal property allotments

Shahnawaz Khan

Srinagar, September 04, 2007:

Indian administered Kashmir’s minister for transport Hakim Mohammad Yaseen is in the centre of a controversy related to irregularities in the evacuee properties department, of which he has been the minister in-charge.

A House Committee formed by the Legislative Council of Indian administered Kashmir to look into the irregularities in the evacuee properties department has accused Yaseen of direct involvement in wrongdoings and recommended strict action against him and then officials of the evacuee properties department.

Citing allocations based on favouritism in contravention to rules, the committee has concluded that the then Custodian General, Custodian Jammu and Custodian Kashmir have misused their powers and acted unfairly under the influence of minister in charge.

The allegations against the minister include the allotment of Dachan House – an evacuee property in Gagribal – to his daughter in law without proper auction and spending huge amount on the renovation of the house without any justification.

Besides, the committee cites a number of allotments based on favouritism where the premiums fixed are much lower than the market prices. The beneficiaries of such allotments include ministers, legislators, their kin and separatists including the Chairman of the moderate faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference Mirwaz Umar Farooq.

In the case of Dachan House the committee notes that the property has been allotted in the name of one Miss Wadia, daughter of Bashir Ahmad Shah. The identity given in the records seems to have been done to conceal the fact she is the daughter-in law of Hakim Yaseen.

As per the records in the evacuee department more than Rs 18 lakh, have been incurred as expenditure on construction of Dachan Kothi at Gagribal. However, there is no record in the department to suggest if the expenditure has been authorised by any competent authority.

Calling the case as a glaring violation of evacuee property act, the committee notes that the expenditure incurred is unjustified.

“Why such a huge amount has been sanctioned for the said Dachan House that too in violation of the Act and the Rules is clear from the fact that the said Dachan House has been allotted within the family of the then minister in charge evacuee department, Hakim Mohammad Yaseen, in the name of his daughter in law,” the Committee says.

The House Committee chaired by Jammu Kashmir National Panthers Party head Prof. Bhim Singh was constituted by the Legislative Council to probe into the allegations of allotment of evacuee properties and misuse of funds in the name of repairs and renovations, in the evacuee properties department from November 2002 to 2005.

The committee held several sittings in Jammu and Srinagar and examined records related to allotment of custodian properties during the period. In its report the committee concluded that allotments of properties including the Dachan House made to 32 persons during this period were “illegal arbitrary and discriminatory”.

Apart from the Dachan House allotted to Hakim’s daughter in law, the committee notes that most of the beneficiaries of irregular allotments are mostly the ministers, legislators, bureaucrats and “well wishers of the authorities of the department, and of the minister in charge”.

The committee has also cited the case of allotment of property at Wazarat Road Jammu, where the committee says the flats have neither been put to auction nor any applications invited.

Out of 11 flats three have been allotted to legislators Mir Saifuallah, Sharif ud Din Shariq and Ghulam Hassan Khan, one has been allotted to daughter of Ghulam Hussain Mir, MLA Tangmarg, another to former Law Secretary Khursheed Ahmad Bhat.

In most of the cases the record maintained by the department does not give full residential particulars of allotees that could ascertain their identity.

Taking a strong note of the lack of proper credentials the committee says that despite best efforts the identity of some of the allotees could not be ascertained.

The flats have been allotted at premiums much lower than the market rate. These could have fetched much higher prices if the auction had been done publicly.

Legislators Sharief ud Din Shariq and Ghulam Hassan Khan have been allotted flats at a premium of Rs 1.5 lakh with the permission to raise construction themselves.

The committee notes that fixing the premium at “such low rates” indicates that the authorities have not proved themselves to be the custodian of evacuee properties and have acted against the interests of the department and the evacuees.

The Evacuee department is in charge of the properties left behind by people who crossed over to Pakistan or Pakistan administered Kashmir in the aftermath of the partition of Indian subcontinent in 1947.

In 2005 when the first Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service was started, one of the evacuees, Fairda Ghani who travelled by the bus to this part of Kashmir laid claim on her ancestral property creating a controversy in the State.

The House Committee report presented in the Legislative Council last week goes on to add other instances of alleged violations by the minister and officials of Custodian department.

The allotment of plots, in violation to rules has not been limited to mainstream politicians. Two prominent Hurriyat leaders, including the Chairman of the moderate faction, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq are also the beneficiaries of such allotments.

The committee says that Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Bilal Gani Lone have been allotted two plots of land, one kanal each, at Sadrbal Srinagar and Sannat Nagar Budgam without any auction. The plots have been allotted for 40 years each, “in violation of rules, amounting to corruption”.

In an earlier report the House Committee has said that 96 appointments made in different disciplines in the department were illegal, and unconstitutional.

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