Rs.3.5 lakh crore land-licencing scam in Haryana alleged

Chandigarh, Aug 10 (IANS) Ashok Khemka,, the IAS officer who hit the headlines last year after he questioned a land deal involving Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra, has alleged a land-licencing scam in Haryana to the tune of a whopping Rs.3.5 lakh crore during the regime of Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.

He has alleged that the scam of this magnitude has taken place in the past eight years - 2005 to 2012.

Khemka, who had cancelled the mutation of the Rs.58-crore land deal between UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra's company, M/s Sky Light Hospitality, with realty giant DLF October last year, and was punitively shifted out by the state government, has alleged that that the whole deal done by Vadra in the purchase, getting licence and sale of prime land, measuring 2.7 acres, in Shikohpur village in Gurgaon district was based on "false" documents, including a fictitious cheque, and was a "sham sale".

Disputing the charge that he had singled out Vadra's land deal for cancellation, Khemka told IANS: "As director general (land holdings and consolidation), I had investigated many land cases. This (Vadra) case got more media attention because of the high profile people involved."

Allegations have been levelled by Khemka with a number of examples of fishy land deals and land-grabbing involving VIPs, influential bureaucrats and realty giants in the national capital region (NCR) in Haryana adjoining New Delhi and other parts of Haryana.

Khemka levelled the allegations in his reply to the Haryana government on the findings of a three-member committee of top Haryana bureaucrats set up by the Hooda government October last year on issues raised by Khemka.

The high-level committee had recently rubbished the issues raised by Khemka. The 1991-batch IAS officer filed his reply May 21 this year and the Haryana government says that it is still "being examined".

Khemka has alleged the huge land scam involving issuance of licences to colonies in over 21,366 acres of prime land in Haryana between 2005 and 2012. Hooda, who is into his second term as chief minister, has been in power in Haryana since March 2005.

"The Department of Town & Country Planning issued various types of colony licenses for a total of 21,366 acres in the last 8 years from 2005 to 2012. The licenses granted from the year 2005 to 2012 constitute 71.5 percent of the total area licensed from 1981 to 2012," Khemka claimed in his reply.

"The rate of grant of colony license during the period from 2005 to 2012 was seven and a half times the corresponding rate during the period from 1981 to 2004. Assuming an average market premium of Rs.15.78 crore per acre for colony license as in the present (Vadra) case, we may be looking at a land-licensing scam of nearly Rs.3.5 lakh crore during the last eight years," he pointed out.

"Even if the market premium for colony license is assumed to be as low as one crore rupees per acre, the land-licensing scam in the last eight years is worth at least Rs.20,000 crore. The worth of the land-licensing scam in the last eight years could be any figure in the range between Rs.20,000 and 350,000 crore," he said.

"This is a humongous scam and loot of public wealth by the vested political-bureaucratic-business nexus," Khemka said in his letter.

Pointing out that Vadra's land deal with DLF was a clear cut case of impropriety as Vadra bought the land for Rs.7.5 crore, procured a licence for a colony from the Hooda government and sold off the same land to DLF for Rs.58 crore, Khemka alleged that Vadra's company made over Rs.42.6 crore from the deal.

"Trading in licenses is a deliberate ploy to allow crony capitalists operating as middlemen to flourish and appropriate the market premium of the license. If the initial grant of licenses is by way of auctions, the most optimum price for the colony license would accrue to the state coffers," he claimed.

"Twenty four acres of precious panchayat lands, comprising of prime Gurgaon properties in 17 different cases were transferred to newly created realtor companies by two former directors of the department. The market worth of the Panchayat lands transferred was between 800 and 1,000 crores of rupees. The realtor companies with no activity before or after the illegal transfers of lands were mere vehicles to transfer the land to actual builders at hefty premiums," Khemka said.

He said that a criminal investigation was recommended but the revenue department scuttled it.

Regarding Vadra's company, Khemka pointed out that over 3.5 acres land was registered in February 2008 on payment of Rs.7.5 crore. He alleged that the cheque for this payment (no.607251 dated 9.2.2008 of Corporation Bank, New Delhi) was "most likely a fictitious cheque number".

Vadra's company, M/s Sky Light Hospitality Private Limited, was granted a licence by the Haryana government to set up a colony on 2.7 acres of land. The company was later allowed to sell the licence and the land to DLF for Rs.58 crore.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

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