Punjab politicians defend role in Tata project
Chandigarh, November 25
Their move came in the wake of The Tribune’s investigative series of articles highlighting how the Punjab Government “helped” the multi-tower, highrise project of Tata Housing Development Company (THDC), which has 102 Punjab politicians on board. This paper had reported how the project was coming up in the vicinity of the Capitol Complex and violated the Edict of Chandigarh that banned all development in the north of the Capitol Complex.
It also reported that the project, having 19 towers varying from 12 to 35 storeys high, was coming up in the ecologically fragile Shivalik foothills and abutting the Sukhna wildlife sanctuary. In return for selling the land, the Tatas had agreed to pay each politician, who is a member of the society, Rs 82.5 lakh apart from allotting a four-bedroom apartment in the new housing complex.
Addressing mediapersons, senior BJP leader Balramji Dass Tandon alleged that the campaign against the project was “timed perfectly” to coincide with the hearing of a PIL before the Punjab and Haryana High Court to “prejudice the judiciary”. “There is a need to probe the nexus,” Tandon said.
For the record, The Tribune has been highlighting legal shortcomings in the Tata project since 2007, when this housing society of MLAs and MPs entered into a joint development agreement with the THDC.
Hitting back at The Tribune, politicians, including Amrik Singh Dhillon, ex-MLA, Vidhan Sabha Deputy Speaker Satpal Gosain, Congress’ Faridkot MLA and society’s vice-chairman Avtar Singh Brar, Congress’ Payal MLA Tej Prakash Singh, Congress’ Kila Raipur MLA Harmohinder Singh Pardhan and Lok Sabha former Deputy Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal of the SAD claimed that they had done nothing wrong and even imputed motives to the Tribune expose.
The politicians said they had bought 21.2 acres for their society in bits and pieces between 1998 and 2002. Out of this, only 2 acres, 2 kanals and 19 marlas was ‘mushtarka malkan’ (village common land) and the rest was ‘khewat’ (privately owned land). “It is pertinent to note that in a civil writ petition, No. 274 of 2006, filed by the Lawyers for Human Rights International against State of Punjab and others, the Punjab and Haryana High Court, after a judicial scrutiny of relevant records, has held that the order of revenue authorities allowing mutation in favour of original co-owners of mushtarka malkan land was valid and legal, ” claimed Baramji Dass Tandon. He claimed that the Edict of Chandigarh was only a direction and not a law.
Tandon also claimed that after purchasing the land, the society spent considerable amount for making it usable and thereafter, it resolved to carve out plots for allotment to its members. “The plots were allotted through a draw of lots. It is on record that 28 members of the society showed disinterest and withdrew from it,” he stated. But as the mediapersons questioned their role more intently, instead of clarifying the points raised by The Tribune in its series, they chose to divert the attack alleging violations by others, including The Tribune.
While countering the allegation that the Tata housing project was coming up in violation of the New Capital Periphery Control Act, these MLAs insisted that the Western Command Headquarters, NAC Manimajra, Panchkula and Mohali had also come up within the 16-km green buffer (periphery) of Chandigarh. The politicians also questioned Chandigarh’s expansion from 25 sectors (as per the city’s original master plan) to 63 sectors and construction of the IT Park, Film City and Knowledge Park. Incidentally, these extensions, including Panchkula and Mohali, have been permitted in the Chandigarh Urban Complex Plan, approved by Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh.
The politicians alleged that The Tribune headquarters itself was a highrise and disturbed the city’s skyline. “Rules were bent to accommodate it (The Tribune building) or were flexible enough to accommodate it as a progressive measure, little caring for the concept of breaking the skyline,” they said. It may be mentioned that The Tribune building has four storeys and does not constitute a highrise.