Instead of stopping illegal constructions on the protected green pastures, the Punjab urban development authorities have entertained applications from real estate traders for approval to the colonies which are yet to come up on such lands.
"We have applied for regularisation of our colonies to come up on different locations," said Nature Heights Infra Limited (NHIL) spokesman Prince Solanki, reacting to the HT's Forest Land Scam-Part 1 report published on Monday.
It is strange that there is no construction, and yet the state authorities have received applications to regularise such 'colonies' sold out on paper.
The spokesman's reply lies in a clause of the department of housing and urban development notification dated August 21, 2013, which says, "The regularisation shall be guided (with specific parameters) where area between 35-65% is sold out."
"It is the area and not the construction," replied the company's spokesman, when asked how the state could regularise the colony that was not there.
Though the notification, in its Rule 6 clause (i) mentions that no unauthorised colony/building will be regularised where the land comes under the Punjab Land Protection Act (PLPA) or is owned by the state or the local government, it skips the category of the pastures de-listed from the PLPA where any construction is otherwise also banned/disallowed to safeguard the state's forest cover.
Banking on this notification for getting its real estate sites regularised, the NHIL did not rule out that it had applied for approval to their deemed colonies at Dhaneda and Paharpur in Anandpur Sahib block of Rupnagar district and Talwara block of Hoshiarpur district, at least.
The NHIL acknowledged that it owned such sites de-listed from the PLPA but otherwise under the protected forest cover.
"We will withdraw all such agreements where such green areas are included," the spokesman said.
He, however, was silent on the fate of investors enlisted as buyers of the proposed plots on such lands.
A closer look at the documents or records in possession of HT revealed that the NHIL had 2,374 investors who had invested Rs. 16 crore in the name of plots at 'Nature Green' and 'Nature Legend' on the lands that mainly included the protected green pastures.
The NHIL, in a press communique last year, had said that it had sold out 440 acres at Dunera village in Pathankot district as shops/residential plots and a college. The village is situated on the Shivalik hillocks as a de-listed area from the PLPA with mandatory clause of complete ban on any commercial activity or construction.
Investors never shown sites
The fate of several investors from as far as Delhi and different places across Punjab is at stake as they had heavily invested in the proposed plots at the sites that they were never shown.
Two such investors are from Mansa and Samana, who said they had "invested" in an NHIL residential project. "I never visited the site but will get the possession after six years by which time the colony will be ready," said Bikkar Kumar from Mansa, who had invested Rs. 24,610 as a cash-down payment for a plot at Charanganga in Hoshiarpur district.
HT is in possession of the lists of such investors. They include 14,885 people for 1,100 acres in question at Bringli village of Talwara block in Hoshiarpur district and the money invested into the accounts of the NHIL comes out to be Rs. 87 crore. The bank account in the name of the project 'UNI Town' was opened in the Punjab National Bank branch at Abohar.
Similarly, there is another list of 9,889 investors for Dunera village in Pathankot district where the amount invested is Rs. 7.54 crore.
Another investor, Shiv Kumar from Samana, who was approached by HT on phone, said he "owned" two plots in Anandpur Sahib that he had bought at Rs. 2,025 per square foot. Expressing his keenness to sell off one of these, he asserted that the current "NHIL rate" was Rs. 6,525 per square foot. He said he also never visited the site, adding that he trusted the company.
Punjab financial commissioner revenue (FCR) NS Kang refused to speak on the subject that involves registrations/mutations of lands under the forest cover in the name of real estate companies.
In a peculiar case, the Anandpur Sahib sub-registrar had registered 135 acres in only two land holdings (360 kanals and 721 kanals) in sheer violation of the land ceiling Act that restricts the area of agri-land at 17.5 acres, and that too in the name of a real estate company.
NHIL clarifies on 'directors'
NHIL chief managing director Neeraj Arora clarified that his wife Dolly Thathai and father Satpal Thathai were "not among the directors of the company", as reported by HT.