Rivers, forests, minerals and such other resources constitute a nation’s natural wealth, the Supreme Court said nearly four decades ago. Importantly also, the top court said that these resources are not to be frittered away and exhausted by any one generation. Every generation owes a duty to all succeeding generations to develop and conserve the natural resources of the nation in the best possible way. Truly, it is in the interest of mankind. The natural resources are ‘public goods’. The regulation of rights and obligations of the State vis-à-vis private parties, seeking to acquire the resources demand the procedure adopted to be just and transparent. Kashmir valley possesses these resources in abundance and those violating laws and norms need to be taken to task including for any environmental degradation. However, what is on display is the utter disregard for norms and regulations. Recently Jammu and Kashmir high court was informed by PDA that 75 parties are in occupation of 75 plots comprising of 79 kanals 8 marls 7 Sirsai and 4 sft in Pahalgam, the ecologically fragile place which is important to Kashmir on various counts including tourism. Out of this land, 63 kanals 18 marlas 1 Sirsai and 5 sft has been leased out by the Government and rest, 15 kanals, 10 marlas and 6 Sirsai are encroached upon by different persons. Astonishingly, the Pahalgam Development Authority went on to say that it has no record of any grant of any lease. No action has been even taken against the encroachers.
Rightly, the top court of J&K and Ladakh observed that the PDA’s report “discloses terrible state of affairs.” These leaseholders who “don’t pay a penny to the government even as they use the property for commercial purpose” are also blamed for carrying constructions in violation of permission or illegally. It is astonishing that in a highly sensitive tourist place vulnerable to ecological fragility like Pahalgam that the official machinery from time and again allowed these violations. There is ever-increasing insensitivities towards respecting nature and its innumerable forms of benevolence. If places like Pahalgam are destined to be victims of such an attitude, it is without doubt the worst thing to happen. The government machinery is obliged under terms of services to protect the fragile place. Ironically, the machinery even does not respect the court orders. It is high time for the Lieutenant Governor led administration to stem the rot and take tough action against those responsible for the degradation of the environment as well as allowing the public property to be used in the manner it has been officially admitted.