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HindustanTimes Mon,22 Dec 2014

As MLAs’ society wants out, Tata Camelot set for burial

Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Hindustan Times   Chandigarh, June 13, 2013
First Published: 23:56 IST(13/6/2013) | Last Updated: 00:35 IST(14/6/2013)

A partnership entered into six years ago, with an eye on a potential windfall from the realty sector, is coming to an end after a reality check. The MLAs’ Cooperative House Building Society, which gave land to business giant Tata for the since-doomed Camelot project in Punjab’s Kansal village adjoining Chandigarh, wants out.

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The society on Tuesday approached Tata Housing to annul the 2007 agreement as it was “not bearing any fruit”. Tata was to construct 15-17 skyscrapers with 1,500-1,700 high-end flats and commercial premises in Kansal on 53 acres. Of this, 21.2 acres were of the MLAs’ society, 28.7 of the Defence Services Self-Supporting Society and the rest of another private party.

In exchange, Tata was to pay Rs. 82.5 lakh to each member of the society in cash, along with a flat measuring 2,500 sq feet. Sources said the agreement was the same with the defence services society and the private landowner. There are around 100 members in the MLAs’ society who own 129 shares; the defence services society also have about same number of members. Tata was to sell the remaining flats at high price.

But the dream crashed two years ago, when the Punjab and Haryana High Court came down heavily on the project acting on a public interest litigation that pointed towards environmental issues owing to it being in the catchment area of Sukhna Lake. With the court saying the project can’t take off, the partners have nowhere to go, though an appeal is pending in the Supreme Court.

Four office-bearers of the Punjab MLAs’ society, including its president Charanjit Singh Atwal, who is the speaker of Punjab Vidhan Sabha, former BJP minister Balramji Das Tondon and two others flew to Mumbai on Monday to meet the Tata representatives.

Of the Rs. 82.5 lakh cash, Tata has paid only Rs. 33 lakh -- installments of Rs. 15 lakh and Rs. 18 lakh -- after signing the agreement. Two installments of Rs. 24.75 lakh each were to be paid after clearance and starting of the project. Ministers, former ministers, MLAs and former MLAs belonging to all political parties in Punjab, including deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal and union minister Preneet Kaur, are among unit-holders.

Meanwhile, the defence services society is also holding its general house meeting on Saturday to take a decision on the agreement. Sources said modalities of cancelling the pact could be worked out when a team from Tata comes to Chandigarh next week. An office-bearer of the MLAs’ society said possession of their piece of land is still with them, as they had only given a general power of attorney to Tata.

What’s the matter
Housing project near Sukhna Lake in Chandigarh hit court hurdle over green issues
Society of Punjab politicians that gave land wants pact annulled
Another society that gave larger part of 53 acres to decide on Saturday

Windfall idea
About 100 members -- total 129 shares — formed the Punjab MLAs’ Cooperative House Building Society and bought 21.2 acres in Kansal in 2000-01 by pooling in Rs. 5 lakh each. Each unit was to be 500 sq yards. Then, they collected Rs. 1.5 lakh each for development. “Initially some local builders approached us with the idea of building houses on the land and paying us too. We liked it but wanted a renowned player, so we invited applications and the deal was finalised with Tata,” revealed an office-bearer. Tata struck a similar pact with another society and a private owner.

Members’ loss
“A 500-sq yard plot in Kansal is worth Rs. 3 crore now, but our land under litigation has no value,” said a member of the MLAs’ society. The Rs. 33 lakh – of total Rs. 82.5 lakh besides a flat each -- paid to each unit-holder by Tata has attracted income tax penalty of around Rs. 90 lakh each already, it is learnt. “Bank accounts of members and the society have been seized by the I-T department. We want to just get out of the project as it has also given us a bad name,” said another of the office-bearers, none of whom wanted to be quoted on record. Officials of Tata Housing were also not available for comment.

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