Hawala money propels Kashmir construction activity
25 March 2002
The Daily Excelsior
B L Kak
New Delhi: Union Home Ministry, in a significant move, has called for detailed inputs vis-a-vis ‘property boom’ and surplus funds in Kashmir. This follows a sensational disclosure of the use of ''substantial amounts of hawala moneys as well'' in raising immovable and movable properties in the valley, particularly in the vicinity of Srinagar, during the past some years. The disclosure is contained in a report prepared by a team of researchers with the ‘active’ support of some of the officials of Jammu and Kashmir Government. The report gives a detailed account of the circumstances leading to the destruction, full or partial, of thousands of houses following ''advent of militancy and terrorism'' in 1989. It says that hawala moneys have also been made use of for ensuring a phenomenal growth of the real estate business in Kashmir. If the report is to be believed, over rupees 600 crore of property has been bought in recent years. The report quotes three officials in the property registration office in Srinagar as saying that the flow of money from various sources into Kashmir has been so enormous during these years that the prices in the residential areas have arisen almost seven-fold and by over ten times in the commercial areas. The report has quoted a senior IPS officer as saying: ''the boom has been fueled with massive amount of money being pumped in from various quarters''. It has also quoted a senior CID official of the State saying that massive sums of money from here, there and almost every where have been for the last several years pouring into Kashmir. He is on the record of having said that ''some of the funds from the Government of India for security forces and its holding operations, has also been siphoned off and those flush with this wealth have realized that property is the best investment''. Much of the newly-acquired property, especially the property owned by Kashmiri Pandits till they were dragged out of valley in early 1990, has been registered under ''benami'' names. According to the report, in the case of the commercial property, many new acquisitions have been converted into handicrafts showrooms. The J&K Home Secretary has been reported to have argued that Jammu too has seen a spurt in ''real estate prices of late''. The report contains an interesting story about the property registration courts in Srinagar. These courts report the registration of 50 to 60 deals almost every day. What is worse is the nexus between property brokers and Government officials, which makes it difficult for the revenue authorities to get the required money by way of tax levied on property price.