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HindustanTimes Sun,20 Apr 2014

Land sharks eye wild lands, officials turn a blind eye

Prabhjit Singh , Hindustan Times   Chandigarh/Anandpur Sahib, October 28, 2013
First Published: 01:18 IST(28/10/2013) | Last Updated: 01:25 IST(28/10/2013)

Two months after the lodging of an FIR for excavating the green landscapes protected under the Punjab Land Protection Act (PLPA) in a Rupnagar village, the police and the authorities are silent on the issue.

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The FIR concerning 1,455 kanals of Dhaneda village is only the tip of the iceberg. The accused real estate company - Nature Heights Infra Limited (NHIL) - has eyed huge chunk of PLPA and other lands where no commercial activity or structures are allowed in three more districts, namely Hoshiarpur, Gurdaspur and Pathankot.

HT is in possession of the land revenue agreements and even registered sale deeds in which the NHIL had come into agreements with different parties for the transfer of lands in its name.

Such villages in the kandi area in Hoshiarpur and Rupnagar districts include Malewal, Singhpur, Kalma, Kupwal, Mehloti, Mangupur, Majout, Basali, Kuparsuha, Sakhpur, Karura, Jhandian, Jatwad, Mehndwani, Bhadiar and Bringli.

The transactions are legal but the NHIL's activities of carving out colonies and farmhouses on such lands to lure the customers from as far as Delhi is illegal.

Despite the violation of the PLPA and the Punjab Apartment and Property Regulation Act, 1995, firm owner Neeraj Arora alias Neeraj Thathai of Abohar in Fazilka district has been moving scot-free, freely promoting his real estate business. His other associates as 'directors' in the company are his wife Dolly Thathai, father Satpal Thathai, Amit Kukkar, Gaurav Chhabra and Parmod Nagpal, all from Abohar.

The entrepreneur has 21 bank accounts, all in the Abohar branch of the Punjab National Bank and in the name of different housing and other commercial projects.

FIR for Dhaneda land

In Dhaneda-Thappal twin villages, 8 km from Anandpur Sahib, the NHIL has 281 acres of the picturesque landscapes. The FIR was lodged on August 24, 2013 for excavating the protected wild pastures for a colony 'Nature Greens'. The proposed project, as shown on the company's website and brochures, is illegal as the nature of 225 acres of these lands could not be changed as per the notification of delisting these areas under the PLPA Act.

The locals' hue and cry and the persuasion by RTI activist Dinesh Chaddha made the authorities, especially the Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA), take the cosmetic step of lodging an FIR only under section 4 of the Punjab Apartments and Property Regulation Act, 1995, against the NHIL. The GMADA skipped the required section 420 of the IPC despite the mention in the FIR that NHIL was duping people by promising them residential plots and farmhouses on the land in question.


In absence of any arrest, the FIR lodged at the Anandpur Sahib police station in August has not made any headway.

Ideally, the forest department should also have lodged the FIR in this case. But, Rupnagar district forest officer Naresh Mahajan simply shot a letter to the deputy commissioner against any registration of "landholding sale deeds" to rule out the possibility of any real estate construction."

NHIL chief managing director (CMD) Neeraj Arora could not be contacted, while the company's website had only one toll-free contact number, 18001 024846, which could not be reached despite repeated attempts. Two office assistants, who were contacted on phone, said they did not have any direct number of their CMD.


Background of the land

In July 2009, the union ministry of environment and forests had sanctioned the approval to the state for excluding a chunk of 55,339 hectares of the habitated forest lands in the kandi belt lying in four districts - Rupnagar, Nawanshahr, Hoshiarpur and Gurdaspur. (Notification no. 8-19/2006-FC, dated July 24, 2009).


Besides in Rupnagar and Hoshiarpur districts, the NHIL has shown its housing and other commercial projects like the proposed shopping malls in SAS Nagar, Muktsar, Amritsar, Ferozepur and Pathankot districts.

 
Tomorrow: Shady deals and fear of regularising invisible 'colonies'

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