Forced to act against chief parliamentary secretary and Akali MLA NK Sharma, the Punjab government's science and technology department has finally directed the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) to file a challan in the Dera Bassi court against his Savitry Greens-II residential project at Gazipur village in Zirakpur (Mohali district).
In the first two parts of its series, 'Politics of land deals' (October 31 and November 1), Hindustan Times had highlighted that the ruling Badals had prepared a dossier on the land deals of Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa and his brother Fateh Jang Bajwa to counter the controversy surrounding Sharma's realty empire.
In a letter dated November 15, the PPCB has asked its regional office in Mohali to launch prosecution proceedings against the project proponent (NK Sharma Enterprises) and other responsible persons under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, for violations of its provisions. Dera Bassi legislator Sharma, who is also the treasurer of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), did not get the mandatory environment clearance before starting construction of the project. A similar challan was filed by the PPCB last month against Sharma's Savitry Greens project at Bishanpura (Zirakpur).
Information obtained under the Right To Information (RTI) Act from the PPCB by Punjab Congress spokesman Sukhpal Khaira reveals that the SAD treasurer furnished false affidavits to the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) and the PPCB and still got NOCs (no-objection certificates) from the latter.
Conflicting statements on construction
On October 28, the PPCB gave its "consent to establish" (NOC) to the project without the mandatory environment clearance certificate. The board's RTI reply states, "The project proponent intimated the PPCB vide letter…received on May 27, 2013, that the promoter company has started construction of the project prior to December 2012."
The company's letter added that it started construction before the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) issued the memorandum making environment clearance mandatory for big residential projects.
"About 20% construction has been done and the construction has been stopped now. We were not aware about obtaining environment clearance (EC). No construction will be carried out before obtaining EC," the company said in the letter. The company had in an affidavit dated May 5, 2013, stated that no construction had been started on the site.
Khaira claimed that the company applied for NOC to the pollution board after he highlighted the issue. "The company applied for 'consent to establish' on August 26, 2013.
"The PPCB, succumbing to political pressure, granted the NOC on October 28, within two months. Even Sharma's Savitry Greens project at Bishanpura (Zirakpur), on which the PPCB filed a challan in the Dera Bassi court on October 18, has no environment clearance or even NOCs under water and air pollution acts. The hard-earned money of hundreds of investors has been collected by Sharma, who holds a constitutional post in the government," Khaira said.
'No green nod for many projects'
Listing Sharma's eight residential and business projects in Mohali district, Khaira said none had environment clearance. When asked that did he also seek information on realty projects of other developers, Khaira said he had filed RTI petitions seeking information on all big projects. "I have asked the PPCB to furnish details of how many have environment clearance, how many were rejected NOCs and how many approached the board for NOCs," he added.
Khaira has attached the RTI information to his letter to the secretary, science, technology and environment, Seema Jain, demanding criminal action against Sharma for "violating PPCB laws, furnishing false affidavits" regarding his ongoing projects.
Sukhbir's money in Sharma's projects: Khaira
Alleging that deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal's money was parked in NK Sharma's projects, Punjab Congress spokesman Sukhpal Khaira demanded an inquiry and inspection of all projects of the chief parliamentary secretary. "They are gunning for Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa, alleging evasion of Rs. 44-lakh stamp duty. The evasion by Sharma in just one project is Rs. 1.3 crore. In all his projects, it will run into several crores of rupees," he said.
On his party's poor defence of Bajwa in the assembly, he said, "The state Congress chief himself admitted that he did not brief party MLAs on the issue. The Congress lost the opportunity to take on the government on NK Sharma's projects and the 70,000 cases of shamlat land grab pointed out by the Justice Kuldip Singh tribunal."
On Bajwa not inviting him to his press conference here on November 2, Khaira said he was "indebted" to the former for making him the party spokesman. "If he got affected by my tirade against Sharma, he has the right to say what he feels," Khaira said.