Reliance Haryana SEZ Limited (RHSL), the special purpose vehicle (SPV) incorporated to implement the now-shelved Special Economic Zone (SEZ) project in Gurgaon and Jhajjar districts, has asked the Haryana government to declare "urban" the chunks of agricultural land in Gurgaon district which Reliance had bought from farmers.
Reliance's request is being viewed as an attempt to get round the land ceiling law in Haryana. As per the Haryana Ceiling on Land Holdings Act, the permissible area allowed for an individual to possess ranged from 18.12 to 54.5 acres. However, an amendment was made in the Act in October 2011, which exempted land acquired for non-agricultural purposes and falling within an "urban area" - as defined in the Haryana Development and Regulation of Urban Areas Act - from the ceiling law.
The RHSL, a joint venture of Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Ventures Limited and Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (HSIIDC), had purchased 1,200 acres of agricultural land in Gurgaon district and 7,000 acres in Jhajjar district for setting up two SEZs.
The projects, however, stand shelved as Reliance got the structure of the SEZ project in Jhajjar changed (a model economic township will now come up instead). The death blow to the SEZ project came in January when the state government asked Reliance Industries to return 1,383 acres - transferred by HSIIDC to RHSL in 2006 - as the SEZ project could not fructify for the past six years. The in-principle approval for extension of the multi-product SEZ at Gurgaon, given by the department of commerce, government of India, also expired on March 31.
The SEZ prospects at Gurgaon looked grim from the beginning, with the in-principle approval granted by the union government for the SEZ expiring in March 2009 after two extensions.
While the RHSL has already got agricultural land procured for the SEZ project in Jhajjar declared an urban area through a February 14, 2011, notification issued by the town and country planning department, it has now stepped up efforts to get the chunks of purchased land in Gurgaon district declared urban. Besides exemption from the ceiling law, getting this land declared urban will also help Reliance get industrial licences for it.
The development also assumed significance since the draft development plan of Farukhnagar in Gurgaon district was approved on Tuesday by a state level committee of the town and country planning department under the chairmanship of chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. A large chunk of land being sought to be declared urban by Reliance is in the Farukhnagar controlled area.
Principal secretary, town and country planning, Sudeep Singh Dhillon, when asked about the request from Reliance, said: "They can file an objection once the draft development plan of Farukhnagar is notified. After that, we can examine whether they can be accommodated or not. The power to accept or reject the objection rests with the state government."
The RHSL, in a communication to the department, has said that while most of the land (in Jhajjar) is now part of urban areas as well as the controlled area, it is requested that land falling in Farukhnagar and Gurgaon controlled areas, presently outside the urban areas, be declared urban.
"This would facilitate our ability to undertake further procurement of land so as to enable development for industrial/institutional purposes," the RHSL wrote.
The company has specifically requested that chunks of land falling in Mubarakpur, Iqbalpur, Sultanpur, Budhera, Jhajrola, Makdola and Kaliawas villages be declared urban.
"When we look at combined maps of the Gurgaon Manesar development plan-2021 and 2025, Farukhnagar controlled area and Jhajjar district, we find an area consisting of parts of these villages situated within these three areas which is not declared urban presently. The RHSL has purchased land for the development of SEZ/Model Economic Township projects and some of the area is situated in between these zones," it said.
Reliance has also requested that portions of land in these villages, which are part of the Farukhnagar draft development plan, be earmarked as industrial/institutional zone.
"The same may be reflected in the final development plan of the Farukhnagar controlled area. Also, the area meant for the development of the project in Jhajjar and Gurgaon be not marked amenities zone as reflected in the draft development plan of KMP (Kundli-Manesar-Palwal)," the communication said. Reliance officials, when asked to comment on the request, did not respond.