Haryana assembly passes PLPA amendment bill amid protests by opposition
The Haryana assembly on Wednesday passed an amendment to the Punjab Land Preservation Act 1900 (PLPA), opening thousands of acres of land under the Aravallis and Shivalik ranges for real estate development and mining which could be a major threat to the environment and ecology in Delhi-NCR.
The amended law will exclude tracts of land included in the final development plans or town improvement plans from the ambit of the PLPA. The amendment will be applicable with retrospective as well prospective effect.
The amended law will also grant legitimacy to Kant Enclave in Faridabad, which was built on PLPA notified land and was ordered to be demolished by the Supreme Court. The apex court had then said, “Kant Enclave is a forest or is a forest land or is required to be treated as a forest or forest land and absolutely no construction activity could have been permitted on it with effect from August 18, 1992. Any and all construction activity in Kant Enclave since that date is illegal and impermissible in law.”
The amendment was passed amid uproar in the House with the opposition Congress and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) legislators demanding that the bill be sent to an assembly committee for re-examination. Members of the opposition said that the new law will only help real estate developers and mining companies.
However, finance minister Capt Abhimanyu said the Congress MLAs were levelling false and baseless allegations against the government. “Can you specify the provision in the amendment bill to which you are objecting to? I would like to know which provisions of the bill will affect the biodiversity and reduce the forest cover,’’ the finance minister asked. Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar said the PLPA was framed in 1900 and needed modifications in view of the changed situations.
The bill was passed even as the Congress MLAs entered the well of the House raising anti-government slogans and walking out in protest. As soon as the amendment bill was introduced by the forests minister Rao Narbir Singh in the House, INLD MLA Parminder Dhull questioned the intention of the state government. “What is the hidden agenda behind bringing this amendment bill. And why is this law being amended from retrospective affect? This is quite bizarre. It is a sure way to destroy the Aravallis,’’ Dhull said.
The MLA said the Supreme Court orders barred de-notification of forest areas. “Is this being done at the instance of builders and mining companies? This amendment bill should be withdrawn and referred to a committee of the Vidhan Sabha,’’ Dhull said. Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader in the assembly, Kiran Choudhry, said that amendment in the PLPA would allow the realtors to intrude into adversely affecting the ecology and environment.
“It is an anti-environment move and will only help the real estate developers. The forest cover in the state is very less. Tinkering with the Aravallis will only bring destruction. De-notification of green areas and the amendment in the PLPA will lead to desertification and increased mining activity,’’ Choudhry said.
CM defends amendment
Coming to the defence of the PLPA amendment Bill, chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar told the House that many urban estates of Haryana Urban Development Authority colonised areas faced uncertainty on account of PLPA notifications.
“Colonisation licenses given over the years will be rendered invalid if the Supreme Court gives a direction similar to the one given in the Kant Enclave matter. The existence of large number of developed areas will be under cloud,” Khattar said.
The CM said difficulties were being faced by the state government due to the decisions of various courts and green tribunal on the issue. Khattar assured the House there was no wrong intention behind the amendment Bill. “And if one believes there is any wrong intent, then one can challenge it in a court of law,” Khattar said. “And no one can question my integrity since the intentions behind bringing the amendment Bill were good,” he added.