Lok Sabha member from Patiala Dr Dharamvira Gandhi on Friday dared deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal to come clean on the alleged land scam running into hundreds of crores of rupees involving real estate companies, in the garb of housing schemes for the economically weaker sections (EWS) in the state. Dr Gandhi was elected to the Lok Sabha on an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ticket but was suspended from the party in August 2015 for anti-party activities.
“Political bigwigs such as chief parliamentary secretary N K Sharma and Mohali mayor Kulwant Singh are among the main culprits in the scam and they did so under the patronage of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir Badal,” Dr Gandhi said at a press conference here on Friday.
Dr Gandhi also accused local government minister Anil Joshi of conniving with the realtors and land mafia, saying “the municipal committees of various towns have no record related to such housing projects”.
“The nagar councils of towns, including Kharar, Zirakpur, Dera Bassi, Lalru and Banur, have no record related to the upcoming or commissioned housing projects and, thus, the entire real estate business in their respective notified areas is going on unchecked,” said whistleblower and AAP’s Mohali media coordinator Satnam Daun, who was with Dr Gandhi at the press conference.
Dr Gandhi accused the senior officials of Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA), Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA), and such authorities of Ludhiana, Bathinda, Jalandhar and Amritsar zones of illegally facilitating private builders by collecting money from the applicants under the EWS category and selling the units to private people, ignoring lakhs of EWS applicants.
“The companies have been getting land at highly subsidised rates for building up to 10% houses for the EWS category in their housing projects as per Punjab Apartment and Property Regulation Act, 1995,” he said.
In a glaring example, he said, TDI Homes Pvt Ltd had collected Rs 15,000 each from about one-lakh EWS applicants in 2009, promising them flats at subsidised rates on Mohali-Kharar road. But the company neither allotted them a house nor returned the application fee. The GMADA in this particular case was the nodal agency to implement and facilitate the EWS scheme, but it never took any action against the TDI,” said Dr Gandhi.
In Mohali, GMADA had taken a “damage control measure” by sending notices to 11 real estate companies for retrieval of 102 acres in all. “The land is being retrieved, but there has not been any punitive action for this criminal neglect on the part of these builders,” Dr Gandhi pointed out.
Daun also said he had received “threats to his life” in Mohali and was also offered bribes in crores in lieu of withdrawing pleas seeking information under the RTI Act about various such shady projects.
Daun was also attacked near the Mohali SSP office in December 2014 for which an FIR was registered against “unidentified persons”, even as Daun had named a Kharar builders.
Accountability to Parliament
Dr Gandhi, who is also a member of the parliamentary committee on housing and urban development, told reporters that the Punjab chief secretary had assured the committee in August last year that the state government would look into the matter and take measures to come clean on the entire matter.
“But we (the parliamentary committee) are still waiting for the state’s reply to certain aspects raised with chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal,” Dr Gandhi said.
He said the report of the parliamentary committee was yet to be made public.
Land retrieved, punitive action missing
As per the information given under the RTI Act, the GMADA has so far retrieved 102 acres in all from 11 erring companies for not allotting houses to the EWS applicants. These included— Country Colonisers Pvt Ltd (12.34 acres), Janta Land Promoters Ltd (9.81 acres), MRMGF (15.52 acres), Omaxe Pvt Ltd (10.7 acres), PACL (18.31 acres), Ansals Group (4.03 acres), DLF (5.78 acres), TDI Housing Pvt Ltd (4.5 acres), Unitech Homes (12.5 acres), Panchsheel Cooperative Society (1.32 acres) and Bajwa developers (7.15 acres).
Now, the GMADA would be making the houses for the EWS applicants on these chunks of land, bailing out the builders without any punitive action against them, Dr Gandhi said, explaining the connivance of the senior officials concerned.