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Forest and Land Scams of Haryana

Forest and Land Scams of Haryana, naya haryana, नया हरियाणा

6th September 2014

Naya Haryana

Corruption is the cancer of civil society. It weakens the ideals and makes bribes, harassment and immorality an accepted way of life. It is in this corruption that Haryana has been wallowing over the past few decades. Agricultural land in the state is the backbone of Haryana's primarily agrarian economy. From time immemorial the forests of the state have provided residents of the region a healthy ecology, apart from medicinal herbs, fruits, flowers, wood, and livelihoods. Corruption in the state has reached a mammoth proportion, at least in the case of the varied land scams. The land that belongs to the people and the future generations of the state has been traded, gifted, and pledged to suit the needs of a handful of corrupt politicians.

Land scams galore

One of the biggest and worst scams to hit Haryana is the Forest Scam of Wazirabad (2009). The Haryana government allotted about 350 acres of forest land which had been initially acquired for public purposes to DLF, a leading private real estate builder, for construction of commercial luxury apartments. Land acquired from farmers for a song was transferred to DLF which planned to construct a series of villas and luxury apartments along with an 18-hole golf course and a recreation park. The scam, worth INR 50,000 crores was one of the worst in Indian history. The allotment of land to DLF has recently been cancelled by Haryana High Court, exposing the corrupt practices of the state administration.

At around the same time, the state government issued No Objection Certificates (NOCs) to well-known politicians and influential people related to the UPA government allowing them to build farm houses on hundreds of acres of forest land in the state. This land in Gurgaon District was protected by the Environmental Protection Act 1986 and Rule 5 Clause (3)(d) of the Environment Protection Rules of 1986, due to its location in the Aravalli Mountain Range. With a scam amounting to about INR 17,000 crores, precious natural resources of the state were handed out for the construction of farm houses.

In 2008-09, crores of rupees were made as payments to non-existent plantations in the district of Jhajjar. The funds from these domestic and international donor agencies were siphoned off in gross violation of the centre-funded Forest Development Agency (FDA) rules and regulations. The plantations to which these funds were made were supposed to have existed on lands which were privately held or belonged to village panchayats. The embezzlement of these funds ultimately attracted CBI enquiry.

Persecuting the whistleblower

In 2007, a number of these scams involving thousands of crores of rupees were exposed by Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer, Mr.Sanjiv Chaturvedi. Many senior bureaucrats of the Hooda administration were implicated and the Chief Minister himself was under scanner. The state was reluctant to hand over the investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the whistleblower Mr. Chaturvedi was repeatedly transferred and harassed for his honesty. Apart from facing 12 transfers within a span of 5 years, the officer was suspended and charge sheeted on false allegations. By early 2012, the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) had given the CBI its approval to go-ahead and conduct a probe into the numerous multi-crore forest scams of Haryana.

It is the protection of the UPA government at the center that allowed the state administration to successfully get away with its varied scams by clever political maneuvering. In 2010, a two-member panel constituted by the UPA government's Environment Ministry also confirmed the irregularities but the government did not act upon any of the findings. In March 2014, the Hooda administration hired a private lawyer to oppose the CBI's takeover of the case by means of a writ. While the forest scam cases are pending resolution, they expose the depth of corrupt practices in the state.

Our vision of a Naya Haryana is for the establishment of an equitable state, free from corruption, and unethical practices. We dream of a state where the environmental resources of the state will not be handed over to rich and powerful politicians as part of their spoils from ravaging this state or as reward for their participation in corrupt practices. While we look forward to the honourable courts of the country to right the wrongs already done, it is our pledge to keep the environmental and financial wealth of the state within its boundaries and reinvest it for the development and benefit of its people.

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