In conversation with Sonam Chosjor, Assistant Commissioner (Revenue), Leh

By Kunzang Chosdol LEH, Aug 07, 2018
With growing urbanization and population in Leh district, the disputes over land are also increasing.  To make people aware of the land related issues, rights and responsibilities, we have Sonam Chosjor, Assistant Commissioner Revenue Department, Leh in this issue. He holds a Masters Degree and M. Phil in Political Science from Jammu University and is a 2008 batch KAS officer hailing from Achinathang village. 
Presently, he is serving as an Assistant Commissioner Revenue, Leh since November 2017.
Q. Brief us about the Revenue Department, Leh.
Revenue Department, Leh is headed by the Deputy Commissioner, Leh. In terms of revenue administration, the district is divided into Six Sub-Divisions (Nubra, Kharu, Durbuk, Nyoma, Likir and Khaltsi) 8 Tehsils, 20 Niabads and 34 Patwar Halqas. 
Q. What are the roles and responsibilities of the revenue department?
The primary function of the department is to maintain and update the land records. It is also responsible for land reforms, settlement operations, preparation of records of rights, collection and recovery of land revenue/arrears and maintenance of law and order. The department functions as the nodal agency for: 
a) Acquisition of land by the government, semi-government and private agencies
b) Conducting census operations
c) Providing relief and rehabilitation. Revenue Department is also the custodian of the State Land.  
Q.  Tell us about the total area of land in Leh district, how much of lands are covered by the human settlement, agriculture, forest and barren land?
In Leh district, a total of 10, 44,506 kanals of land have been recorded in revenue records. Out of this, 4,43,472 kanals are barren land, 4,472 kanals forest land, 3,27,888 kanals agricultural land and 1,45,904 kanals of land with human settlement. But you know, Leh district has got more area/land than what is there in the revenue records. Many areas far away from human settlements are still unmeasured and therefore are not there in the records. 
Q.  Tell us about the role of the department in maintaining the land records. How the department keep land records and how many lands are reserved for the public purpose in Leh district?
As I said earlier, maintenance of land records and to keep updating the same are the primary function of the department and the most common mechanisms to do these are Girdawari, Jamabandi and Record of Rights. These are done in accordance with Revenue Acts of the Jammu and Kashmir like Land Revenue Act, Land Grant Act etc.  
In case of Leh, we have the LAHDC Act as well and by virtue of that LAHDC, Leh is the custodian of land in Leh district. Therefore, all kinds of allotment, transfer and acquisition of land to an individual, community or government in Leh district have been done through the LAHDC, Leh ever since the Act came into existence.
In all allotment cases, a fixed quantum of land (prescribed in the respective law) is reserved for common/public purposes. For example, under the Command Land Regulation Rule for Leh and Kargil, 15% of the total quantum of land allotted is reserved for public purposes, 10% for grazing purposes.
Deputy Commissioner, Leh has taken a new initiative to reserve at least 300 kanals of land in each Tehsil for public purposes, to begin with. The land has been identified by each Tehsildar and process for fencing those lands is going on. 
Q.  There are lots of army settlements taking place in all regions of Leh district. How does the department allot land for them and till today how much of land has been allotted to Indian army in the district?
The Army has occupation over 100,000 kanals of land in Leh district. In more than 90% of the cases, the land is yet to be formally transferred to the Army. In some of the cases, especially in Khaltsi Sub-Division, people and their representatives have serious reservation about the occupation of some of the prime locations of the villages by the Army. This is mainly because of the fact that Sham Valley is very narrow and scarcity of land for community purposes is a common phenomenon. 
The normal procedure for transfer/allotment of land to Army or any other agency is the department places indent for the acquisition of a particular quantum of land to the Deputy Commissioner/CEO, LAHDC, Leh specifying the purpose for which the land is required. The DC Office then processes the case. NOCs from the concerned Nambardar, Councillor and the MLA are the first mandatory step. Once NOCs received, the revenue papers of the land are prepared and forwarded to the State Government (if the indenting department/agency is a non-state subject) or to the LAHDC, Leh (if the indenting agency/department is a state subject) for approval. Once approval and NOCs from the concerned quarters are received, formal transfer/allotment order is issued by the DC/CEO, LAHDC, Leh on rate of land and infrastructure fixed under the provisions of J&K Preparation and Revision of Market Value Guideline Rules.
However, in most of the cases in Leh, the processes have been going on in reverse: the Army first occupies the land at their own giving operational and strategic requirement justifications and then formally applies for regularization of the land.
Q.  Brief us about the Girdawari, how many times does it held in a village and how important is it?
Girdawari is the most basic record and is commonly known as harvest inspection. This is conducted twice in those villages where there are double crops in a year and once in those villages where there is only single crop. Each Patwari is responsible for this in his/her Patwar Halqa by way of spot inspection of each field to record the condition of the standing crop. In this process, the Girdawar has the responsibility to do 100% inspection, Naib Tehsilder 50%, Tehsilder 25%, ACR/SDM 10% and DC 5%. Girdawari is the most important activity of the revenue department from the standpoint of a common man.  The declining interest of the villagers in Girdawari is one of the important factors of many land disputes.
Q.  Brief us about Record of Right, Jamabandi, and Mutation Register, how important is to aware people about the same?
Record of Rights or Misalhaquat are prepared at the time of settlement operations in a village and contains the genealogical tree (Shajranasb), map of estate, village etc. The details landholders, tenants as well as the assignees of land revenue, rates and other payments due from such persons are also found in it. This is the most important record in terms of evidential value.
Jamabandi is prepared after every four years and is called the annual record or Jamabandi Chaharsala. It is one part of Records of Rights. It contains the list of landholders and tenancy holders with details of fields as well as the rents and land revenue paid by each tenant and landholder respectively.
Mutation Register is a printed register with Patwari. On the cover page of the register, we find the name of the village, Tehsil, District etc. This register is separately maintained for each revenue village and normally consists of 100 leaves. Each leaf is duly numbered and has a foil (known as Parat –Sarkar) and counterfoil (known as Parat-Patwar). Entries in the Parat-Patwar are done by the Patwari based on the existing entries of the Jamabandi and the entries in the Parat- Sarkar are made on orders passed by the Revenue Officers during mutations. All changes in record since the previous Jamabandi are updated before writing the new Jamabandi of any village.
Q. We see that there are lots of land related issues and disputes among the people in Leh. Are people of Ladakh aware of the rights, responsibilities, and laws related to land?
The very fact that land-related disputes are increasing in Leh is a very clear indication that people are getting more aware of their right and therefore have become assertive. Dispute on land-related issues exists everywhere in the state. Leh is not the only place or only district. There are mainly two types of disputes on land-related issues. First is the dispute within a family over ancestral land for due share. This is very common in rural areas. 
Second is the dispute between/among individuals/families over occupation/encroachment of state land, especially in and around Leh town. There are also instances of disputes between villages over possession of pieces of land. Revenue courts at different levels (Tehsilder, SDM, ARC, ADC and DC) are there in the district to settle such disputes.    
Q. Does the department carry out awareness among the public?
Yes, we do conduct awareness camps. Girdawari is the most effective tool to spread awareness among people. Since patwari visits the spot and reads out the details of land and its holders in presence of the public, one can get a very clear idea of the status of the land. But these days, very few people bother to attend or take interest in Girdawaris. The younger generations have completely lost connection with their roots and have no knowledge and idea about their ancestral land and its records. The process of Jamabandi and mutations are also important mechanisms through which awareness among the people is spread. 
Q. Tell us about the schemes for the benefit of the public under the revenue department.
Revenue Department not being an executing agency of the government does not have any beneficiary oriented scheme. But we do carry-out relief and rehabilitation works as and when such situations emerge. 
Q. Many a time we see that one particular land is being registered under two different Shajara and Khasara. How does the department check on it?
Yes, this does happen. In rural areas, such cases can be very rarely found. This is common only in and around Leh town. One of the factors in this is the fact that the Latha (map of land) of Leh is no more there to find out the exact locations and the khasara numbers of land. Secondly, because of the rapid urbanization and increasing commercial value of land in Leh town, there is a fierce competition among all to grab as much land as possible in the town and this leads to such consequences— getting duplicate shajara numbers in connivance with revenue field staff to stake claims and counterclaims on pieces of lands. 
But, the settlement process of Leh is underway and shall be completed very soon. In the new settlement, Leh has been divided into four villages and the measurement and numbering of the khasaras are being done by using ETS machines for accuracy. Once the new settlement is done, the duplicate shajara khasara will no more be there.
Q. To protect the common land from encroachments, what are the laws implement against the encroachers under the land revenue act?
Whenever and wherever there is an encroachment on land belonging to the Government, Revenue Officers are authorized to issue notices to evacuate the land and to eject structure raised on the land under Section 133 (Prevention on encroachment on common land) of J&K Land Revenue Act. In some cases where the matter is sensitive, we do impose restrictions under Section 144 of J&K Cr. PC.
Q. Brief us about the role of the department in election-related works. How many constituencies are there in Leh district and what kind of works rest on the department?
Deputy Commissioner, Leh is the District Election Officer, Leh and the Revenue Department is the nodal agency responsible for the preparation and to update the voter list of both Assembly and Parliamentary elections for the entire district. The same voter list is also used for the Elections of LAHDC, Leh and the Panchayati Raj Institutions.  For this purpose Assistant Commissioner (Revenue), Leh and Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Nubra are the Election Registration Officers (ERO) for Leh and Nubra Assembly Constituencies respectively. And, both are Returning Officer (RO) of the respective constituencies for the Assembly Elections. All Tehsilders function as Assistant Electoral Registration Officers (AERO). For parliamentary elections, Deputy Commissioner, Leh is the Returning Officer for Ladakh Parliamentary Constituency (which includes Kargil district also).
Revenue Department also conducts different types of revision of Electoral Rolls. Through Intensive Summary Revision, BLOs make door-to-door visit to add new eligible voters and to delete the voters who are no more. In Special Summary Revision, which takes place in the month of September every year, all eligible voters till 1st of January of the coming year are registered. 
Q. Tell us about the issuance of PRC, ST, and SC certificates by the department. Ladakh being the border of two nations, why ALC and OBC certificates are not issued?
All these certificates are also issued by the Revenue Department. Documentation of all these certificates is done at the concerned Tehsilder’s office. Generally, concerned Sub-Divisional Magistrate is the issuing authority of PRC (but he/she must be a resident of the state). ST and RBA certificates are issued by the concerned Tehsilders. SC, ALC and RBA categories are not notified by the Government for Leh and Kargil districts. SRO 294 dated 22-10-2005 issued by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir has mentioned only ST and RBA categories in respect of Leh and Kargil district. Therefore, we cannot issue SC, ALC and OBC certificates as people under these categories technically do not exist in Leh.
Message to the readers
“Firstly, Girdawari has begun in Leh district with effect from July 15, 2018 and will culminate by the end of August. So, I request all to attend the same with enthusiasm. 
Secondly, too many un-planned colonies are coming up in Leh with lots of haphazard constructions. This will cause a lot of inconvenience to the inhabitants in the near future. All citizens should co-operate the LAHDC, Leh and the District Administration plan and implement a livable and sustainable Leh town.”