Tuesday, November 19, 2013

EXPOSE : Land Deals In Haryana : Where land sharks rule

The nexus between politicians and builders in Gurgaon is responsible for largescale loot of public resources in the millennium city

AMIT Jain, Director-General of Federation of Apartment Owners Association (FAOA), frequently draws a parallel between Gurgaon, the millennium city abutting South Delhi, and Mandwa, a hamlet near Mumbai made famous by Hindi film titled Agneepath. While in Mandwa, Jain points out, criminals multiplied their income through smuggling of narcotics, in Gurgaon, builders and developers do it through shady property deals.

Jain would know. The FAOA, a group of 35 apartment owners associations from different parts of the country fighting against builders for upholding interests of apartment residents, gets 24 of its enrolments from Gurgaon alone. The Federation has taken over some 20 cases from apartment associations against the builders. Out of these, half a dozen are against DLF Ltd, arguably the largest commercial estate company in the country. In a case pertaining to Silver Oak, the first apartment developed by DLF, the FAOA is awaiting an order from the Supreme Court. Jain accuses the Haryana Government of partnering with DLF and other builders to rip off every ounce of public resources in Gurgaon. “It’s not collision. It’s a partnership. The system is run by politicians and builders together,” Jain alleges.

Surprisingly, despite having a booming market where prices have multiplied several times in the last decade or so, the Haryana Government, according to Jain, has kept the circle rate ridiculously low and allowed people to park their black money in the city.
Jain’s accusation finds an echo in statement of Raman Sharma, President of the Progressive Gurgaon Forum (PGF), an umbrella body of around 68 Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs). “The Town and Country Planning Department (TC&P) is there to benefit the builders,” he says. The Forum has filed close to 200 complaints against the builders and the department in the last four years. The department is spearheaded by a Director-General and represented by a Senior Town Planner in Gurgaon. Sharma also has five complaints pending before the Lokayukta, the anti-corruption ombudsman in Haryana.

Sharma has accused the builder of encroaching his residential society, Malibu Towne in Sector 47, on open space (common area). “The builder has constructed a telephone exchange and raised electric infrastructure and other things on 15 acres. The market value of this land is around Rs 375 crore (Rs 25 per acre),” he claims. The Malibu Towne builder has not handed over the common area to HUDA (Haryana Urban Development Authority) even nine years after the launch of the residential society, though the Haryana Development and Regulation of Urban Areas Act, 1975, stipulates that the builder should transfer the project to HUDA within seven years after the launch.

In fact, the most shocking part is that none of the over 920 licensees, who have been granted licenses by the TC&P Department till October 11, 2013, in Gurgaon, have transferred their projects to HUDA for maintenance. HUDA, headed by a Chief Administrator in Chandigarh and an Administrator in Gurgaon, has also done nothing to take over these projects. Sharma charges Gurgaon builders with not doing enough to provide proper roads, treated water, sewerage, solar water heating and community centre, etc., to their residents.

Sharma puts the quantum of scam on account of construction in common area and its non-transfer to the local agency by the builders at Rs 1,80,000 crore. But, the total property scam could run into much more—according to experts in Gurgaon’s estate market, it could be anything between Rs 4,00,000 crore to Rs 5,00,000 crore in the last nine years alone, if one were add up CLU (Change of Land Use) certificates the government grants to the builders and developers to the non-transfer of common area to the HUDA.

Despite having a booming market where prices have multiplied several times in last decade or so, the Haryana Government, it is alleged, has kept the circle rate ridiculously low and allowed people to park their black money in the city collects Rs 2 crore underhand for CLU for every acre of land. The CLU apparently allows influential people like Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra to become ultra-rich overnight.

Congress MP and Hooda’s bĂȘte noire Rao Inderjit Singh has demanded a probe into licensing of 21,000 acres of land by the State Government in first eight years of its tenure. Hooda, in turn, has pointed out that his government even granted license to a collaboration between Inderjit and Unitech for development of a colony on 83 acres of land, under the ‘small farmer’ norm.

THERE are strong indicators of the Haryana Government’s complicity with the builders in Gurgaon. For one, the Government has till date never punished a builder for violations of the 1975 Act. It has never moved beyond cancellation of license and invoked Section 10 of the Act, which prescribes maximum of three-year jail and fine to an offender. It also has not invoked Section 11B of the Act, which empowers the police to arrest such an offender. On the contrary, the cancellation of license is invariably revoked after some time, allowing the builder to go scot-free and resell his plots/flats at a much higher rate.

A befitting example of the government’s soft and one-step-forwardtwo- step-backward approach is Mayfield Garden, a 327-acre township developed by five builders near a star hotel in Gurgaon. On February 4, 2012, DG TC&P T C Gupta cancelled all 26 licenses of the five builders and put an embargo on further sale of plots after his Senior Town Planner confirmed that some of the roads were in ‘worst condition’ and the builders were yet to construct community building. In addition, the builders had raised a commercial market in a place earmarked for a dispensary in the approved layout plan. The cancellation was revoked on September 5, 2012, after the developers gave it in writing that they would lay water lines, carpet the roads and provide sewerage and parks.

The internal development was to be done within six months (before March 5, 2013). But none of this has happened. In the meantime, the Haryana Lokayukta has issued notice to Gupta, on a complaint filed by Sheetal Residents Welfare Association, alleging Gupta’s complicity with the developers. Dharambir Yadav, President, Sheetal Residents Association, has alleged that Gupta “knowingly and intentionally favoured the licensee companies for not prosecuting the developers for cognizable offences, committed by them in construction of illegal independent floors by dividing the plots vertically, in contravention of prescribed rules and has failed to recover the public money on account of regularisation fee of illegal independent floors”. Gupta has denied the allegation and claimed to have initiated action against the colonisers.

Jain cites Kunskapsskolan Eduventures Limited, a school offering K12 education based on KED programme for Indian and International students, as another example of builder-government complicity in Gurgaon. The school began its first session earlier this year. DLF gifted five acres of land, earmarked for 80 plots and a park, to the school in April 2009, much to the dismay of resident welfare associations.

JAIN raises questions on the functioning of the judiciary on the basis of cases pending against builders in the Supreme Court, and what the Punjab & Haryana High Court did in January this year on the petition of residents of DLF Phase I against the Kunskapsskolan School. The High Court allowed the petitioners to withdraw their plea, though the latter claim to have never asked for it!

Since 1981, when the TC&P gave the first license to DLF to develop a high-rise apartment building, less than half-a-dozen licenses, out of over 924 licenses approved, have been cancelled in Gurgaon. But not a single builder or developer has had to face prosecution or arrest as stipulated in Section 10 and Section 11 B of the Haryana Development and Regulation of Urban Areas Act, 1975. “Why does the department not invoke Section 10?” asks an intrigued Dharambir Yadav.

On September 13, 2013, DG, TC&P, Haryana, withdrew approval of demarcation-cum-zoning plans of the licensee, Countrywide Promoters Private Limited, for developing a residential colony over 108.069 acres in Sector 102 and Sector 102-A, after it observed that the licensee had not cleared EDC (External Development Charges), amounting to over Rs 73 crore. The department directed the licensee to stop all development work at the site. But a visit by gfiles saw the development work still going on.

Another evidence of governmentbuilder nexus in Gurgaon was a memo issued by the TC&P on September 15, 2008. “The license application of only those registered cooperative house building societies will be considered for grant of license, who have a collaboration with the builders/devel- opers having the financial capacity to undertake the development and technical expertise in development of residential colonies,” the memo reads. It was clearly aimed at forcing cooperative societies to enrol builders into their projects. The move considerably increased the societies’ budget, defeating the very purpose of floating a cooperative society.

THE number of licenses granted has been highest in 2008 (150 out of 210 given for different projects in Gurgaon) till date. Is it a mere coincidence that this was a few months before the State went to polls?

It is apparent that Hooda has used select bureaucrats to dole out land largesse to builders in Gurgaon and silence voices of dissent like that of Ashok Khemka, whistleblower IAS, who exposed Vadra’s land deal earlier this year. Is it just a coincidence that Sudeep Singh Dhillon, currently Principal Secretary to Haryana Chief Minister and former Principal Secretary, TC&P, and TC Gupta, currently Principal Secretary in Food & Supplies Department and former head of TC&P, have been in the forefront of taking on Khemka on behalf of the State Government? Gupta was held guilty of contempt of court last year by the Punjab & Haryana High Court for giving licenses to builders in contravention of a HC order.

There are also allegations that Gupta has been involved in amassing property. In fact, there are many officers in the HUDA and the TC&P who face charges of graft. These include several Haryana Civil Service officers and engineers. Both the departments report to the Financial Commissioner and the Principal Secretary. While the TC&P is responsible for issuing licenses and mutation of land for development of residential colonies, institutions, commercial structures and recreational avenues, etc., HUDA is supposed to provide infrastructure.

HUDA Administrator in Gurgaon, Praveen Kumar, has himself been under a cloud since Khemka alleged in a report that the former’s mother Krishna Kanta, who hails from Hooda’s native village Sanghi, got a prime piece of usurped land in Faridabad when her son was Deputy Commissioner in Faridabad. Kumar refutes the allegation. But his zeal to demolish illegal structures and improve infrastructure in Gurgaon has definitely proved to be a false starter. One example is that a part of the land freed from encroachments by him in DLF Phase V is being looked after by a top developer now. Estate experts believe that it is just a matter of time before the developer gets a license to build an apartment or commercial structure there. g

Some observers put the quantum of scam on account of construction in common area and its nontransfer to the local agency by the builders at Rs 1,80,000 crore. But, the total property scam could run into much more.

By Narendra Kaushik

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