While farmers are a happy lot after getting Rs 1.35 crore per acre during the land acquisition process for housing projects, panchayats have been deprived of their legitimate share from the common pathways between farm holdings.
The money in question in two blocks of SAS Nagar district, Majri and Kharar, stands at Rs 267 crore for 198 acres of net area of the pathways dividing the fields acquired by private colonisers.
The onus for these payments lies with the land acquisition collector (LAC) attached with the Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA), the nodal wing preparing the master plans for housing and other mega projects in SAS Nagar district. The rural development and panchayat department had formally taken up the matter with senior GMADA officials in November, and LAC Pushpinder Singh Kaile was also present in the meeting. But so far, the GMADA authorities have not moved an inch to recover this amount from private developers.
Kaile initially said that the matter of payment was between the panchayats and the developers, but when pointed out that the LAC was required to formally acquire the government (panchayat) land in question under the Land Acquisition Act so that the panchayats could be adequately paid for these pathways, he said the process was on.
GMADA additional chief administrator Manjit Singh Brar said the onus for payments for these pathways was completely on the LAC. He had a "clarification" to offer: "The LAC is not our employee, but an officer attached with the Punjab housing and urban development ministry."
When asked how GMADA could sanction such projects in the absence of mutation of the entire land under the project in the name of developers, Brar said, "These projects are sanctioned by the housing and urban development ministry. Going by government rules, a project can be sanctioned if the developer has at least 50% occupancy of the land."
Notably, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal holds the portfolio of housing and urban development, besides being the GMADA chairman.
GMADA started giving approval to these mega housing projects in 2008. The average cost per acre was then set at Rs 1.35 crore per acre in the periphery of Chandigarh and SAS Nagar. The area has witnessed rapid growth in real estate over the past four years.
In Kharar block, where a payment of Rs 124 crore is due to panchayats, JLPL and PACL owe Rs 24 crore each for 18 acres, followed by PACL (Rs 24 crore for 17 acres), TDI (Rs 14.13 crore for 10 acres) and Ansal Promoters Infrastructure (Rs 8.10 crore for 6 acres). Payments from 10 other developers are also pending.
In Majri block, Omaxe, DLF, Alchemist Infra Realty and small developers owe Rs 142 crore to panchayats for 105 acres in 18 villages.
'Ready to pay, but let govt ask for it'
Janta Land Promoters Ltd (JLPL) chief executive officer Kulwant Singh said his company had no hassles in paying for the pathways, but he never received any official communiqué in this regard.
He said GMADA had not even notified section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act to acquire the common pathways from panchayats. "We are ready to pay, but let the government ask for it," he laughed.
LAC found lacking, GMADA just did not bother
The onus for the pending payments lies with the land acquisition collector (LAC) attached with GMADA. LAC Pushpinder Singh Kaile initially said that the matter was between the panchayats and the developers, but when pointed out that he was required to formally acquire the panchayat land in question under the Land Acquisition Act, he said the process was on.
The land acquisition collector (LAC) banks on revenue land records to assess the area and the subsequent compensation for the area to be acquired under the Land Acquisition Act for any project.
GMADA, the nodal agency for such an exercise which is required to pay compensation to panchayats for the village common (shamlat) land, never bothered to assess the area of the pathways in the land acquired by private developers.