CHANDIGARH SKYLINE IN DANGER: A TRIBUNE INVESTIGATION-II
Punjab politicians picked up land cheap and then used their clout to push the controversial TATA housing project through
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, November 17
It’s a story of how as many as 129 politicians – MLAs and MPs (both serving and former representatives) made a killing by investing Rs 15 lakh each, and getting a return of Rs 2.62 crore (flat worth RS 1.80 crore and Rs 82.5 lakh cash), in less than a decade.
The story goes back to the 1990s, when each of the 129 elected representatives from Punjab – 90 MLAs and serving and some former MPs, wanted to get a chunk of land in or around the city. Thus the Punjab MLAs Housing Society was formed over a decade ago (around 1998), and they started looking for land to set up a group housing society. Since a property next to the Sukhna Lake adds to the snob value, the Society started looking for land in the vicinity of the Lake, the Assembly and Punjab and Haryana High Court.
Investigations made by The Tribune reveal that this society identified 22 acres of land in Kansal village for the purpose. Though this land was originally the shamlat deh land (village common land), it was partitioned between the original land owners of the village, who then sold off the land individually, to the Punjab MLAs Housing Society.
This partition of land was reportedly also okayed by the Director Land Records and Consolidation, as perthe provisions of the law. It is learnt that each of the MLAs paid Rs 15 lakh per one kanal of plot, and the land is estimated to have been bought for Rs 3.30 crore. The land bought was also bought by the Defence Services Society (31 acres) from the villagers at similar rates (Rs 4.65 crore).
And what a sound investment it has turned out to be. Around the year 2006, when the Tata Housing Development Company (THDC) was trying to make a strong foothold in the luxury real estate segment, and enter the booming Chandigarh realty market, it entered into a deal with the Punjab MLAs Society and another housing society adjacent to this site, Defence Services Society (incidentally, this society has several bureaucrats, politicians and police officers as its members). THDC reportedly bought the land from the Punjab MLAs Society for Rs 106 crore, and from the Defence Services Society for Rs 125 crore.
Not that it is a bad deal for THDC. With the company seeking a price of Rs 8000 – Rs 9000 per square meter for each of the 1000 flats that it proposes to sell in the phase I, and a likely upward revision of prices for the next 734 flats it will sell in phase II, the company will definite make a huge profit on its total investment of Rs 1800 crore here.
The Tribune has already highlighted how these 19 high rise towers (each having 12- 35 storeys) will mar the beauty and heritage status of Chandigarh. Coming up just over a kilometer from the Capitol Complex, this project, Camelot, by THDC has been given all necessary clearances by Punjab, including the approval of its building plans. This even as the project, spread over 53.39 acres, falls within the north of Chandigarh, where all development is banned.
Since Camelot is very close to the Sukhna Wildlife sanctuary, the expansive human population and vehicular traffic it will generate will definitely impact the wildlife in the sanctuary. Since this urbanization is being planned without the civil infrastructure of the village in place, it will also lead to unorganized development in this ecologically fragile and seismic zone.
(To be concluded)
THE BIG THREATS TO CHANDIGARH
Tata’s Camelot project has been allowed to come up within the 16 kms green buffer zone (periphery of Chandigarh), which is in violation of the New Capital Periphery Control Act, as development is banned in this area.
The Shivalik foothills is an ecologically fragile area, and construction here would only escalate the soil erosion, which would lead to increase silt deposition in the Sukhna lake, apart from marring the skyline.
Both the Naya Gaon master plan and the Jurong Master Plan for greater Mohali area development had specifically noted that no high rise buildings can be built in the foothills of Shivaliks. But the project is using a loophole as it falls within the municipal limits of Naya Gaon Notified Area Committee which permits highrises.
This area falls within the seismic zone, which finds a mention in the Naya Gaon master plan and the project has to be cleared from that angle.
This project is also adjacent to the Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary. The high population and vehicular traffic it will generate will impact the wildlife here.