Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MP Dr Dharamvira Gandhi on Thursday demanded an “independent” probe into the conduct of colonisers — “most of them patronised by politicians and bureaucrats” — who have failed to allocate housing units to the economically weaker sections (EWS), in violation of the law.
The Patiala parliamentarian said that as per the Punjab Apartments and Property Regulation Act (PAPRA), 1995, builders who get “all sorts of concessions in various forms” from the state government are required to build houses for the economically weaker sections of the society “on 5-10% of the land that they have acquired”. “However, according to our preliminary inquiries, none of the builders has fulfilled the requirement of the Act. Rather, they have been found selling the housing units meant for the weaker sections in the open market for commercial gains.”
Vowing to raise the issue in parliament as well, Gandhi added, “If the Punjab government digs deeper and holds a thorough probe, it could be a scandal of nearly `50,000 crore. Our survey of Greater Mohali area and various nagar councils in the surrounding has shown that poor people have been denied nearly 1 lakh houses that they are legally eligible for.”
Explaining the enormity of the scam, he said further, “As per information obtained from PUDA (Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority) website, poor sections of society are eligible for nearly half a million (5 lakh) houses of one or two rooms on an area of 560 acres across Punjab.”
Toll of cheating
Patiala MP Dr Dharamvira Gandhi also touched upon the simmering issue of a “scam” in toll tax collected for roads by private builders. He said private contractors engaged in road construction “are fleecing road users by charging illegal toll tax”.
He cited a specific example of the Behrampur toll tax point on National Highway 21 in Rupnagar district. He said information collected by the AAP shows the toll tax started in July 2011 for a road stretch of 42.9km, of which 13.1km is on NH21 and the remaining 29.8 on the Rupnagar-Kiratpur road. “The toll barrier, however, is installed on NH-21 from where all road users are charged tax uniformly, whereas only 10% of the users turn towards Kiratpur who are supposed to pay the full toll tax. The remaining 90% who head towards Nawanshahar also end up paying the entire amount without using the road going towards Kiratpur,” he claimed.