J&K government wants real estate brokering locked
The issuance of an order literally banning land brokers and sealing their offices indicates the negative tendencies in J&K’s policy-making coterie.
SRINAGAR: Players on ground insist it is inconsequential. But the issuance of an order literally banning land brokers and sealing their offices indicates the negative tendencies in J&K’s policy-making coterie.
This past weekend, Srinagar deputy commissioner (collector) issued an executive order directing “seizing the offices of land brokers operating in the Srinagar and around” because the government received “large scale complaints regarding sale of migrant property.” It has also been alleged, an official statement announcing the decision said, that “land brokers in convenience with unscrupulous elements, some Revenue officials are managing change of land use especially on either side of National Highway.”
“It is ridiculous at the best,” commented a builder Reyaz Ahmad. “Brokering is an established business worldwide including India but if J&K has inadequate laws, practicing professionals can not be blamed for that.” He said the order might help government target some individuals, it will not trigger results that will make the sector fall.
Explains Baseer A Khan, the Srinagar collector: “We have complaints that a single plot was old four times by the brokers and in many cases, the ownership papers are fake and then there are some temple properties also.” Khan said his officers will seize records, scrutinize them and fix responsibility.
“We have asked authorities in Budgam, and Baramulla districts also to implement the order,” Divisional Commissioner Asgar Samoon, the top policymaker behind the idea, said. “The move is aimed at discouraging arbitrary conversion of land use especially agricultural land into housing areas.” A law that the assembly discussed is currently with a select committee and Samoon says such executive orders will help them to regular the market till the law comes into force. “We are currently invoking section 133(a) of the land revenue act to intervene,” Samoon said.
Given the status of J&K as a state with the lowest per family land holding, the land rates have actually gone through the roof. In villages where every inch is under apple cultivation, orchard sales are like high-end palace auctions where the highest bidder gets it as no rates exist. In Srinagar that is spreading far and wide, land prices double every fourth year. The cultural disdain for vertical housing structures and categorization of the area in seismic zone-V are adding to the pressure on land as every new family wants its own piece of land.
A senior officer asserted that the rise of the private sector is managing massive housing requirements of the society is outcome of the failure of the state government. “We lack prospective planning and we do not know what our exact requirements would be this year or in 2014.” The officer said the market appetite for housing land has already devoured a lot of agriculture land in Srinagar and a lot of Saffron land in Pulwama.
A senior officer in state’ finance ministry said the order is inconsequential because the market is better. “For the first time J&K recorded a stamp duty of Rs 150.51 crore in 2011-12 which is 116.28 growth over the preceding year,” the officer in state’s commercial tax department said. “The order might discourage certain elements but it would not stop the genuine transactions.”
At one point of time J&K was a state that had worst stamp duty structure in place with urban duty as huge as 23 percent. “This sector witnessed two interventions and that has changed the sector,” senior officer said. “While a reasonable tariff structure is in vogue - 7 percent in urban and 5 percent in rural areas, entire state is classified under different zones with clear minimum land rates for all kind of lands and that has improved collections.” Kashmir Valley is doing much better. “In 2010-11 the tamp duty collections were at Rs 24.69 crore that jumped to Rs 81.78 crore last year,” the officer said. “In the first quarter of the current fiscal, we have already collected Rs 27 crore and we anticipate Rs 120 crore from Kashmir alone this year.”
Though the order may not impact the housing sector, it has hit a different target. “If so huge is the transaction, what would be the percentage of the migrant land?” asks Hilal Ahmad, a Srinagar resident. “What are the officials trying to prove by making such a statement?”