Saturday, March 10, 2012

Assembly nod to property bill

Amid PDP's walk out the State Assembly today passed the Transfer of Property (Amendment) Bill 2012 with a voice vote by incorporating Congress legislators' one amendment in it that maximum period of lease for the project land should not exceed 40 years.

Earlier, PDP members including leader of Opposition in the House Mehbooba Mufti, Nizam-ud-Din Bhat, Abdul Haq Khan, Abdul Rehman Veeri and Choudhary Zulfkar who had moved amendments to the Bill did not withdraw them on Minister's insistence after his reply and pressed the same which were defeated by a voice vote.

Perturbed over the defeat of their motion of amendments the PDP members staged a walk out in protest and the House passed the Bill by adopting one amendment of Congress members.

While appreciating the concern shown by members, Minister of Revenue, Relief and Rehabilitation Raman Bhalla assured the House that this amendment in Transfer of Property Act Samvat 1977, Bill No 1 of 2012 has been promulgated with the sole objective of ushering in economic self -reliance of the State and keeping in view the general well being of the people of the State.

He said this is one more step towards harnessing the vast hydro- electric potential of the State as the State which has the capacity of generating about 20,000 Mega Watts of power generation but most of it is going waste due to limited resources.

Bhalla, while justifying handing over of the Power Projects to a Joint Venture company i. e Chenab Valley Power Projects (Private) Limited, said this Company was framed for protection of the interests of the State as the Company is a JVC of J&K State Power Development Corporation (SPDC) National Hydropower Projects Corporation (NHPC) and Power Trading Corporation (PTC).

About the amendment in Act he said Section 140 of the Transfer of Property Act deals with creating exception for relaxing the condition of transfer of property to non -permanent residents of the State. The amendment in the Act is a routine exercise and several such amendments have been carried out by the Government to allow financial institutions, Banks, Corporations etc to carry out their business in the State as corporate bodies are considered non permanent residents of the State.

He said as far as lease is considered, it can be given to the JVC in which SPDC is a major partner.

Through this JVC, three hydro Electric Projects on river Chenab basin namely, Pakaldul 1000 mw, Kiru 600 mw and Kawar 520 mw with an aggregate capacity of 2120 MW on the basis of Build, Own, Operate and Maintain (BOOM) will be constructed, he added.

He said the MoU was already signed by the State Government with NHPC and PTC on the sidelines of the inauguration of Baglihar HEP-I in presence of Prime Minister on October 10, 2008 and the State Administrative Council (SAC) approved the signing of MoU on October 24, 2008 which was ratified by State Cabinet on June 13, 2009.

Bhalla dismissed the allegations that the amendment in the transfer of Property Act is aimed at facilitating NHPC to get lease hold rights for 90 years as the land in question is not proposed to be leased out to NHPC but to M/S Chenab Valley Power Projects Private Limited.

He said the State Government will make available unencumbered land as may be required for the projects, to be taken up by the company on lease hold basis as per the land laws applicable to the State of J&K from time to time.

The Minister said SPDC, NHPC and PTC are entitled to and will subscribe to the equity capital of the company in the ratio 49:49:2 and this ratio will be maintained at all times. Besides the Board of Directors will have equal representation from three companies and the Chairman and Joint Managing Director will be nominees of JKPDC, he added.

He said J&K Government will get 12 percent free power generated from the projects. Besides an additional one percent free power for Local Area Development fund will also be provided by the Company. Further, out of balance 87 percent power, the State Government will have the right to purchase power from the company in proportion to the share of JKPDC 49 percent in the equity of the company at the price determined as per regulatory norms. The remaining power will be sold by NHPC and PTC in proportion to their paid up equity share capital at the market price to the purchaser with J&K having the first right of refusal.

Bhalla said moreover 80 percent of group C&D staff in the company will be permanent residents of J&K State. A minimum of 49 percent of Group A&B staff in the Company will be permanent residents of the State.

He said apart from getting free power/ royalty the J&K will get its share of power /profit in proportion to its stake of 49 percent and would also have the right of refusal on the balance power. Besides the State would have joint administrative and management control in the affairs of the JV.

The Minister said it is not question that the transfer of land will be made to the JV company on ownership basis. Land is an important prerequisite for the project execution and in view of the large benefits that are accurable to the State in terms of power and profit, the same needs to be facilitated for which amendment has been sought to the existing laws.

However, he agreed the Congress Legislators demand that lease period be decreased to 40 years only.

The Congress Legislators including G A Mir, Abdul Majid Wani, G M Saroori and Mohammed Sharief Niaz through their amendments wanted that the ''Chenab Valley Power Projects (Private) Limited'' appearing in proposed clause (I) of the Bill be replaced by the Words ``State Power Development Corporation'', that the maximum period of lease shall not exceed 40 years and a lease of immovable property in favour of the successful bidder for projects of Bus Stand, parking and solid waste management under public private partnership be also added to the clause K.

But the last two amendments were later withdrawn by the members on the assurance of Minister.

The PDP members through their amendments wanted that the Bill be circulated for the purpose of eliciting public opinion, it be referred to Joint Selective Committee of the two Houses, that the agreement to be executed with Jammu and Kashmir Chenab Valley Power Projects Ltd, and land should be transferred in the name of JKPDC alone and with the lease period not exceeding 35 years.

Opposition leader Mehbooba Mufti while justifying her amendment said by seeking control over water resources of the state does not mean that regional parties are against Centre or NHPC an impression which has generally been created in the state. She also sought the cooperation of national parties in this regard. She said there is a general phenomena in the country like Bengal, Karnataka, TN etc seeking control on their water resources. She said regional parties should not come on defensive always on such issues as they are within their right to suggest how resources can be better utilized.

The Opposition leader said "when ever we talk of NHPC, people of Jammu think that they are talking anti national. As water and land are our capital and we have to preserve them and take full advantage of these resources for the development of the state. Once State is fully developed it would in turn result in the development of nation as a whole, she added.

Mehbooba said the water is the only natural resource with us which can compete with petrol as it is needed for generation of electricity.

Making a dig at NC she said it was their Government in 1951-52 which gave control of water resources to Centre and one year after that Indus Water treaty was signed surrendering all rights of the State. She wanted to know what State got in exchange of Indus Water Treaty. It was not given any guarantee or compensation, she added.

Maintaining that ''we are not against NHPC, she said the company is not to blame as we gave projects to them and kept our share less''. ``It (NHPC) is the company of our country and we are the part and parcel of the nation but the agreement signed by us with the company is wrong'', she added.

While justifying her party's amendments to the Bill, she said that regional parties are duty bound that State's resources are properly utilized for its development. She stressed that land be transferred to JKPDC and lease limit should not exceed to 35 years.

Justifying his amendment to the Amendment Bill, Abdul Rehman Veeri said it is a sensitive issue as water resources have become the part of political discourses in the

State. He recalled the Minister of PHE and Irrigation, Taj Mohi-ud-Din saying that the State will take Uri and Salal Projects back from NHPC which has become East India Company of the State.

Ch Zulfkar said that NHPC and other power generation companies exploited the water resources of the State and demanded GOI should give State its share in lieu of Indus Water Treaty. He said giving 90 year lease to non state subjects amounts to giving a permanent right to them.

Abdul Haq Khan also stressed that PDC be given the land on lease.

Nizam-ud-Din Bhat said that management of water resources of the State should not be given to a non -State subject but State itself. The two non state subjects are in joint venture while NHPC has already a bad impression, he added.

He said if the amendments moved by his party are not considered the basic spirit of the law will be broken. By way of giving the land on lease for 90 years will make the every law anfractuous, he added. 

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