Srinagar: The Jammu & Kashmir administration has decided to identify 60,000 kanals (around 7,500 acres) of government land for potential investors ahead of the much-awaited global investor summit in April, ThePrint has learnt.
The summit is scheduled for the third week of April, six months after its original October date, multiple officials in the administration said.
Of the 60,000 kanals (a unit of land used in northern India, equivalent to one-eighth of an acre), 50,000 kanals are in Jammu and 10,000 in Kashmir, the officials added.
The land to be identified will either be rented out, leased or even sold to potential investors across the globe, the sources said.
The sale of Kashmiri land to outsiders has been made possible by the scrapping of Article 370 and Article 35A last year — the constitutional provisions set aside special privileges for Jammu & Kashmir residents and barred outsiders from owning local property.
The potential for greater investments was one of the arguments put forth by the Modi government as it controversially scrapped the two provisions last year.
An investor summit was thus planned in the immediate aftermath of the 5 August decision, in October, but it was postponed.
Officials in the union territory administration said they had begun preparing for the summit, for which the Government of India is expected to invite foreign and domestic private investors.
The inaugural function of the summit will be held in Kashmir, following which the venue will be moved to Jammu, said Mehmood Ahmed Shah, director in the Jammu & Kashmir Industries and Commerce department.
The sprawling Sher-i-Kashmir International Convention Centre in Srinagar has been identified as the venue for the inaugural ceremony, he added.
Shah said the administration has also planned roadshows in cities across the country to spread awareness about investment possibilities in J&K. “The road shows are supposed to take place in Ahmedabad, Surat, Chennai, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Kolkata and Hyderabad,” he added.
“There are three sectors where we think investors, particularly those from J&K, will like to invest in. One is health, second is education and third is information technology,” Shah said.
“We have got several proposals and applications from industries, private companies, educational intuitions and the health sector, which are under consideration,” he added.
“These proposals are from the country as well as abroad. Educational institutes like Vishwakarma University (Delhi), Fergusson College (Pune) and Amity University (Noida) want to set up branches in J&K,” Shah said.
According to Ravinder Kumar, the managing director at J&K State Industrial Development Corporation (SIDCO), the summit is aimed at getting investors from the Non-Resident Indian (NRI) community across the globe.
“Getting investors, particularly those who are originally from J&K and living in middle-eastern countries such as the UAE, will also be a prime focus of the summit,” Kumar, who is the nodal officer for the summit, said.
“A group of doctors from J&K who are living in the United States has… approached the industries department to set up a non-profit tertiary-care hospital in Kashmir,” Shah added. “Every year, 1 to 1.5 lakh patients travel outside J&K to seek treatment. If such initiatives take off in Kashmir, it will be a major relief for people here and will also create employment.”
Kumar said invitations are yet to be sent and the J&K administration is working on shortlisting potential investors.
He added that invitees would include representatives of different state governments as well as foreign countries. “We will be approaching the embassies of various countries to invite business delegates and officials soon,” he said.
Tweak in industries policy
Most of the land identified in Jammu is located in Kathua and Samba, while in Kashmir, it’s in Anantnag.
The identified land will be allocated across various sectors, including food processing, education, information technology, animal husbandry and so on, sources in the administration said.
The land, according to senior government officials, is supposed to be identified before the arrival of investors interested in expanding their respective businesses into J&K.
“The UT government has tasked the industries department with accumulating land banks in Jammu and Kashmir on a war footing,” said a government official.
“In Kashmir, 7,000 kanals (875 acres) of land has been identified and transfers (to industries department) have taken place in four cases. The rest of the land is being identified in all districts of Jammu and Kashmir.”
Asked about the process of identifying land, Shah said it is underway and the administration is looking forward to completing the task as soon as possible.
He, however, added that the land isn’t meant for the summit alone and is part of a long-term strategy to bolster the local industries scene. Creating land banks in the union territory, Shah added, was already mandated by the state industries policy.
A second senior government official told ThePrint that the administration is also working on amending the J&K industries policy to establish new regulations for commercial establishments from outside seeking to invest in J&K.
The policy will address issues such as sale of land and regulations regarding rent, lease or tenancy of properties — which, until 5 August, had been the prerogative of the erstwhile state government.
Following the scrapping of Article 370 and Article 35A, Jammu & Kashmir was also bifurcated into two union territories — J&K and Ladakh. The Modi government has, however, suggested that this status is temporary.