In May, Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Government abolished the stamp duty for properties registered in the name of women in an obvious attempt at economic empowerment of women. Five months later, the state has witnessed dramatic increase in the number of the properties owned by women. In Srinagar alone, more than 3000 properties have been registered in the name of females.
This is seen as a redeeming change in a state where according to government data only 33 per cent women in the age group of 15-49 own a house. Similarly, just 23 per cent of women own land. But the new law is making a remarkable difference. To save the stamp duty on the newly bought property, more and more people are registering them in the name of women
Earlier women in the capital cities of Srinagar and Jammu had to pay 5 per cent stamp duty on land or estate purchased within their municipal limits and 3.5 per cent in rural areas, compared to men who paid 7 per cent and 5 per cent respectively. New property registration records in the Valley reveal that every day an average of 25 to 30 properties worth crores are registered in the name of women. “It has been an empowering step,” says Iffat Ara (not her real name) from downtown Srinagar. “We had bought a kanal of land around the time new law was enacted and my husband had to register it in his own name. But he registered it in my name to save the stamp duty”.
However, women empowerment in J&K has still a long way to go. Female literacy in J&K is at 56.43 per cent, compared to 76.75 per cent for males. Similarly, as per J&K’s Economic Survey report, the state’s sex ratio as per 2011 census is 889 females per thousand males which is lower than the national average. J&K is among the seven worst states with lowest sex ratio in the country: Haryana (866), Uttar Pradesh (869), Punjab (870), Uttarakhand (871), Delhi (876) and Rajasthan (893).
However, the state has 33 per cent reservation for women at panchayat level. Recently BJP Mahila Morcha chief Vijaya Rahatkar said her party “will try to give more reservation and increase the representation of the women in the civic elections. Some states, including Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, already follow 50 per cent reservation for women in panchayats.
And there are other positives too for the J&K women. For one, women’s participation in the workforce is no longer a taboo. This, in turn, has undermined the cultural notion of boys being the sole earning members. But this cultural openness has yet to translate into adequate recruitment of women in the government services. Women constitute only 7.9 per cent in J&K’s worker population ratio.
However, many argue, that the abolition of the property tax for women could prove to be a game-changer. According to official data, the property ownership in the state is largely dominated by men. So, the change in the past five months is remarkable. More property registered in the name of women will go a long way to empower them.
The abolition of property tax for women assumes more significance in view of the fact that real estate is the predominant investment asset in the Valley. Over the past two decades, as the Valley has witnessed a growing urbanization and consequent spike in real estate rates, land and construction of house have become the preferred investment for the people. “With people now incentivised to register properties in the name of their mothers, wives and daughters, this will lead to economic empowerment of women in the state,” Naeem Akhtar, a minister in the PDP-BJP government said.