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CHANDIGARH SKYLINE IN DANGER: A TRIBUNE INVESTIGATION - III
This is How the rules were bent
With top politicians as members, the Punjab Government gave special treatment to the Tata housing project, using loopholes to permit 19 towers apart from ensuring two convenient approach roads from Chandigarh
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 18
Having all top politicians in the state on board for the Camelot project of the Tata Housing Development Company (THDC) has apparently been a wonderful business proposition for the real estate developer. With 129 peoplesís representatives (both serving as well as former MLAs and MPs) as beneficiaries of the project, the company has ensured that its USP of being in the backyard of the lake with the Shivaliks forming its backdrop, yields a great response from investors.

With both Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and Local Bodies Minister Manoranjan Kalia being members of Punjab MLAs Housing Society (which sold its 22 acre land to THDC in return for a flat and Rs 82.50 lakh cash to each of its members), not only has the state government expedited all clearances required to sell the project, but it is now also facilitating the project by proposing easy and shorter access to the Camelot site.

Over the past two days, The Tribune has been highlighting how the multi-storey highrise project by THDC will mar the skyline of Chandigarh. The project is not only violative of the New Capital Periphery Control Act, which bans development in the 16-km buffer zone around Chandigarh, but it will also impact wildlife in the neighbouring Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary. It is being constructed in the ecologically fragile foothills of the Shivaliks and could lead to excess soil erosion.

The state government now plans to construct a 30-metre wide road from Kaimbwala village in Chandigarh, passing through Kansal village, touching Khuda Alisher village (in Chandigarh) right up to the villages of Nada and Mullanpur. The alignment of this road, when constructed, will not only be along the Camelot project site in Kansal village, but also adjacent to the land owned by several other top politicians of Punjab, making it more accessible to Chandigarh and, thus, leading to a higher price valuation of the land owned by them. Punjab has reportedly already asked the Chandigarh Administration to allow road construction in its (UT) area.

Another access road is envisaged to link the Punjab and Haryana Civil Secretariat to the above mentioned 30 feet wide road. This 18 feet wide road, right from behind the Secretariat, is proposed to be constructed through a residential society in Kansal village and will culminate after aligning with the above-mentioned road. Interestingly, the point of culmination of this road is near the commercial site proposed in the Nayagaon Notified Area Committee. A top Punjab politician reportedly owns this chunk of land, which will be used for wholesale and retail trade, hotels, restaurants, offices and cinema halls.

Investigations made by The Tribune reveal that the Punjab government went ahead and bent rules to ensure that there was no legal incumberance whatsoever regarding the Camelot project, before it was launched and sold. Though both the Nayagaon master plan and the master plan initially made by Singapore based consultancy Jurong International said that no high rise buildings could be built in the Shivalik foothills, the Camelot project site was included in the Nayagaon NAC, where high rises are allowed under the municipal laws.

The local bodies department of Punjab also went about manipulating and circumventing the edict of Chandigarh, banning all development in the North of the Capitol Complex. Since construction of high rise building within a one kilometer radius of Capitol Complex is banned, the officials decided that instead of the Capitol Complex, they would measure the distance from the eastern edge of the Punjab and Haryana Secretariat. By not including the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the Assembly (which form a part of the Capitol Complex) while measuring this distance, the officials ensured that the multi tower high rise Camelot project was okayed.

The names of the members of the MLAs housing society is a virtual whos who of Punjab politicians. These include deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, local bodies minister Manoranjan Kalia, Vidhan Sabha Speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon, deputy speaker Satpal Gosain, Union Minister of state for External Affairs Perneet Kaur, former deputy speaker of Lok Sabha, Charanjit Singh Atwal, and former SGPC chief Bibi Jagir Kaur. The others on the list are former MP Rattan Singh Ajnala; Avtar Henry; and MLAs Inderjit Singh Zira; Ajaib Singh Mukhmailpura; Swaran Singh Phillaur; Avtar Singh Brar; Janmeja Singh Sekhon; Gulzar Singh Ranike; Nand Lal; Arunesh Kumar Shakar; Hardev Singh Arshi; Ramesh Chander Dogra; Jora Singh Mann; Om Parkash Soni; Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa; Tara Singh Ladal; Ranjit Singh Ballian; Raj Mohinder Singh Majithia; Jagjit Singh; Jagdish Sawhney; Jagdish Singh Garcha; Satya Pal Saini; Kunwar Jagjit Singh and Baldev Kumar Chawla.

(To be concluded)


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