HT Followup: SDM’s role under scanner in Hoshiarpur land scam
The role of previous Hoshiarpur sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Anand Sagar Sharma has come under the lens in connection with the Hoshiarpur land scam, for he had sent inflated compensation estimates and then revised them to nearly one-third when objected by the Centre.punjab Updated: Jul 03, 2016 23:03 IST
The role of previous Hoshiarpur sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Anand Sagar Sharma has come under the lens in connection with the Hoshiarpur land scam, for he had sent inflated compensation estimates and then revised them to nearly one-third when objected by the Centre.
Records show that the Union ministry of road surface and transport had raised objections to the SDM’s Rs 800-crore estimate for acquiring 102.9 acres of land for the National Highway-3. The SDM revised the sum to Rs 240 crore a day later.
Sharma on December 10, 2015, wrote a letter to central public works department executive engineer (National Highways Authority of India’s local representative in the project), demanding Rs 800 crore for acquiring 102.92 acres in Hoshiarpur district.
As per the Land Acquisition Act for the national highways, the competent authority (SDM in this case) sends estimates of money required from the Centre for the land acquisition.
However, the letters in possession of whistleblower in the case and RTI activist Rajiv Vashisht reveal that the Union ministry objected to the land compensation amount estimates and declined to pay so much money. The copies of the letter are with the HT.
Referring to the first letter (1987/ASDA) by Sharma, the CPWD executive engineer, citing directions from the Union ministry, wrote to him on January 14, 2016, seeking revision of the acquisition rates. “As per your letter referred above, the Union ministry has objected to the exorbitant land cost estimates and is reluctant to accept the proposal,” reads the letter.
After receiving the letter, the next day, Sharma sent another communication to the XEN, this time revising the estimates to Rs 240 crore.
“Now, these letters are enough proof that the SDM had bad intentions even before the acquisition process began. Why a whopping sum of Rs 800 crore was sought, which later was cut down to Rs 240 crore. What more is needed to conclude that the SDM is the kingpin of the scam,” Vashisht said.
Sharma was removed as the Hoshiapur SDM after Hindustan Times highlighted the scam in which three Akali leaders and their kin allegedly made about Rs 100 crore by showing the barren land as the residential or commercial properties to get higher compensation. On Saturday, the government posted Sharma as the SDM of Gidderbaha, which falls in the chief minister’s home district.
Sharma said he had sought Rs 800 crore for the entire road project and not just for the land acquisition. “It was the total cost of the construction of the highway,” he said. However, he failed to give satisfactory answer under what capacity he sought money for the entire project when his role was limited to land acquisition only.