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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Sep 2014

Encroachments around Annandale: Probe detects violation of land laws

Gaurav Bisht, Hindustan Times  Shimla, August 31, 2013
First Published: 00:27 IST(31/8/2013) | Last Updated: 00:28 IST(31/8/2013)

The government probe to ascertain encroachments around scenic Annandale ground has detected large-scale violation of land laws.

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After receiving the “voluminous” inquiry report, the government now mulls to acquire benami (proxy) land around the ground that has remained in thick of controversy for one or other reason.

The Shimla deputy commissioner had conducted an inquiry and made an exhaustive report that contains details about the land transactions pre-independence and submitted it to revenue minister Kaul Singh Thakur. “I have sought some more details on land around Annandale,” Thakur told the Hindustan Times.

Though the inquiry was completed a week a before, but it was just three days back that the report was submitted to the government.

The report has brought some startling facts to fore. It reveals that about 8 to10 bighas around Annandale has been sold illegally to locals and a few businessmen.

What's more intriguing that even a patch of Annandale ground, currently used for parking state helicopters, too has been sold out to private hands. The Congress when in opposition had charged the BJP government for ignoring land laws when land was sold around Annandale ground.

The Congress after assuming the power ordered an inquiry into the land deals around Annandale since the charge figured in its chargesheet submitted to President Pranab Mukherjee.

Following instructions of the state revenue department, the Shimla district administration had started a probe regarding charges of land deals around Annandale that figured prominently in the Congress chargesheet.

The probe focused on identifying people who allegedly bought land surrounding Annandale before the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association launched a signature drive seeking support to convert the ground into a multi-discipline stadium.

The probe further reveals that even Gymkhana Club set up by the British before independence illegally sold the land around Annandale. The Gymkhana Club came into existence in early 90s with an aim to promote popular sporting events like equestrian, polo, cricket and football. The club closed down soon after independence. The report contains records revealing sale of land by Gymkhana Club.

With violations now coming to fore, the government is now planning to acquire the land around Annandale ground in question.

Eight years after the Independence the ground was occupied by the Indian Army in 1955. Over 130 bighas at Annandale ground is under ownership of the government which on paper is recorded to be in possession of Gymkhana Club.

The army had signed a 10-year lease with Himachal, which was territorial council in 1955. However, the lease having expired in 1965, a status quo remained till 1982, when a new agreement was signed that regularised lease for an annual amount of Rs. 2 up to March 1982.

In 1988, the district collector also did issue a notice for resumption of the leased ground but was not executed. The oldest football tournament - Durand Cup - started off from Annandale. The tournament named after Mortimer Durand, the then foreign secretary, was played at Annandale in 1888.

The ground again came under media glare two years ago when the Prem Kumar Dhumal government disputed army claims over ground.

Apart from chopper landing facilities and mock drills, the army has developed a golf course, where top brass, senior bureaucrats and police officers play regularly.


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