M A I N   N E W S

Chandigarh skyline in danger
A 19-tower TATA Housing Project backed by Punjab’s political bigwigs and soaring above Sukhna Lake will dwarf Le Corbusier’s Capitol Complex and mar the City Beautiful
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

TATA’s Camelot Housing and Commercial Project, Kansal, Mohali, Punjab

Chandigarh, November 16
Chandigarh’s beauty and its heritage are at risk of getting lost amidst the financial gains that its “protectors” are now looking at. With 129 politicians — MLAs and MPs (both serving and former representatives) — from Punjab having joined hands with a leading real estate development company to come up with the tallest housing project in the state at Kansal village, right in the backyard of Chandigarh, the city's skyline will be marred, its view of the Shivaliks blocked and its green cover endangered.

Though the edict of Chandigarh clearly states that there is to be no development in the north of the Capitol Complex, the Punjab government has gone ahead and given all required clearances to Tata Housing Development Corporation (THDC) to set up an integrated mixed use project, Camelot, having 1734 apartments in 19 multi-storey towers (each tower having anything between 12 and 35 storeys). These towers will come up within area, which falls in Punjab, but is just a little over a kilometre from the Capitol Complex.


The 129 politicians of Punjab, who were part of the Punjab MLAs Housing Society, are being given a four bedroom flat plus Rs 82.50 lakh each. Of the 90 beneficiary MLAs, 70 are from Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and 20 from Congress. Eight of these MLAs are presently ministers in the SAD- BJP government (four each from the two coalition partners). The prominent members of the society include members of the Badal family, Manoranjan Kalia, Bibi Jagir Kaur, former Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha Charanjit Singh Atwal and Cong MP Perneet Kaur.

The Shivalik range forms the backdrop of the Capitol Complex. The Punjab and Haryana Secretariat, the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the Assembly building were sensitively planned by the city’s architect, Le Corbusier, against the backdrop of these hills. The north –south roads of the city were specifically planned to provide an uninterrupted view of the hills, while travelling in the north direction. Leaving the hills in their natural state was meant to provide Chandigarh’s residents constant access to nature in its pristine beauty. Thus, it was decided that the city would have a 16 km green buffer, and no construction would be allowed in this periphery of the city.

This project, proposed to be spread over 53.39 acres, with a residential area of 42.29 acres and commercial area of 11.1 acres, is also next to the Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary. Though residential areas around a sanctuary are not illegal, but a project of this huge size will lead to high human population and vehicular traffic, which is likely to affect wildlife in the sanctuary. Since this project also falls in the Sukhna catchment area, it will have an impact on the Sukhna Lake, as it would increase soil erosion in the area and silt deposition in the Lake.

Though this high rise project in Punjab area will change the entire landscape, yet, no one, other than the Chandigarh administration, is objecting to this violation in the city’s periphery. Since politicians, cutting across political parties are beneficiaries in this project, there is no voice of dissent on the irregularities involved. Significantly, the land where Camelot is being developed, was initially allotted to two societies — the Punjab MLAs Housing Society and the Defence Services Society. While the first society has 129 members, including 90 MLAs and MPs (presently in office as well as former MPs), the Defence Services Society, too, has many VIPs as its members, including some top bureaucrats, police officials and politicians.

The MLAs Society had reportedly sold its land to THDC for Rs 106 crore and in turn all these MLAs have been allotted a 4 BHK flat plus a bonanza of Rs 82.5 lakh in cash. Interestingly, each of these 129 members had bought this land for just Rs 15 lakh (per kanal). The members of the Defence Services Society, too, have been promised a flat each, after they sold off 31 acres of land to THDC for Rs 125 crore. With all policy makers on board with THDC on this project, the project has got all necessary clearances from the local bodies department of Punjab. The only thing it now requires is an environment clearance from the Environment Impact Assessment Committee. This issue is pending as some members of the committee are to be appointed by the state government.

The Punjab Local Bodies Minister, Manoranjan Kalia, however, is unfazed. “All site plans in the periphery area have been approved as per the policy formulated by the government and approved under the Master Plan of the area. As the population grows and land becomes a constraint, the urbanisation has to be vertical,” he told TNS.

Rajiv Dash, head, marketing, THDC, when contacted by TNS said that there was no illegality involved in the project. “Tatas is a very conscientious group and we always go by the law of the land. We are going ahead with this project only after we have fulfilled all legal requirements,” he said.

ChandigarhAdministration has objected to this violation of the New Capital Periphery Control Act by the Punjab government. The Punjab and Haryana High Court is taking cognisance of the issue. Meanwhile, THDC’s broker has gone ahead with a pre-launch of phase I of the housing project. Investigations by The Tribune have revealed that the broker for THDC, RMC (India) Infrastructure Ltd., has already sold off over 80 per cent of the 1000 units to be constructed in the first phase. The pre-launch offer closed yesterday, with the company selling two and three bedroom, hall and kitchen (BHK) flats at the rate of Rs 8000 per square meter. The prospective buyers have reportedly deposited Rs 10 lakh as initial amount. Incidentally, THDC officials say that this pre launch booking has been done by the broker, as a build up to the formal launch of the project. “We are not involved in the pre launch offer. But since in North India, developers tend to go by the investor segment, the broker could have come up with the pre launch offer,” said Rajiv Dash.

Camelot is by far the most expensive project to have been launched in this region, and most of the units have been sold off during the pre launch itself. RMC Infrastructure is so far unwilling to disclose as to when they will launch the phase II (which will have 700 units of 4 and 5BHK flats), but company officials say that the price for these will be revised. (To be concluded)





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