The state of Haryana has been subject to a series of scams that have surfaced from 2005 onwards.
The Hooda government has been accused of inappropriately issuing licenses to developers for developing over 21,000 acres of land in the state.
So what makes this a scam?
One has to understand the modus operandi that was adopted especially during the period of 2005 onwards. Under the Land Acquisition Act 1894, the state government can notify its intent to acquire land under Section 4 & 6 for public purpose, wherein the land owner has to relinquish the land to the state government and accept the compensation that is offered by it in lieu of the land. The state administration can then license the development of the land to a developer under Section 9.
So, once suitable land was identified by the developers, the state government would issue a notification under Section 4 and 6, to acquire the land and offer the prescribed compensation to the farmers. The developers would then approach the same farmers and offer better compensation than the state. The farmers had little choice but to sell to the developers and accept what was offered, since it was better than the state compensation. The developer would then enter into an outright sale or work out a joint venture deal with the landowner and offer a compensation for the land acquired and offer a share in the developed property.
So what are the numbers involved?
The rampant issuance of licenses was brought to the notice of the High Court and in response to questions raised by the court, the state government responded by stating that approximately 1,350 acres of land was acquired for public purpose and was later licensed out to developers. In many cases, overruling written objections raised by some bureaucrats. So why was so much of interest shown in licensing out the land to private developers and not undertaken by state agencies like HUDA?
The reason is obvious. All profits got shared between the political stakeholders, bureaucrats and the developers instead of going to the state exchequer. The scam has been on a massive scale.
The Robert Vadra case
This case came to light with the cancellation of land mutation of a deal involving M/s Skylight Hospitality, which is owned by Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law, Robert Vadra.
Dr Ashok Khemka, who in his capacity as Director General of Land Consolidation and Land Records-cum-Inspector General of Registration, came across several irregularities in land transactions in the state, one of which involved M/s Skylight Hospitality.
In March 2008, M/s Skylight Hospitality was issued a license to develop 2.701 acres of land, in violation of the existing law, pertaining to the density of land provisions for that area. The company's net worth at the time of application was Rs 1 lakh only. The license was issued despite the fact that the company had no previous record of development, which was a criteria for issuance of license and was subsequently renewed on January 18, 2011.
Breaking law and convention, the state government went out of its way to allot the license to M/s Skylight Hospitality. The company was asked to pay Rs 2.22 crore towards various charges. Since the company did not have the requisite funds, it signed up an agreement with DLF on June 03, 2008 to finance the deal and followed it up with a sale deed that was registered on September 18, 2012. In the meanwhile, it is on record that DLF paid out Rs 50 crore by cheques to Skylight on various dates till October 07, 2009.
The question that was raised by Dr Khemka pertained to the legality of the transaction and the cheque payment made by Skylight. However, the bigger question is, why was a license issued to a newly formed company with no prior development experience? Furthermore, why would a large and established company like DLF indulge in financing a virtually non-existing company like Skylight and pay several crores to a company with a net value of Rs 1 lakh? Robert Vadra was after all Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law.
- It is now well documented how the State Government has retaliated against Dr Khemka.
- This year, several questions have been rightly raised with regard to Skylight's transactions with DLF and Onkareshwar Properties and include:
How was a cheque of Rs 7.5 crore issued by Skylight in 2008 to Onkareshwar Properties at a time when the company's net worth was Rs 1 lakh? Where did the money come from?
Was the cheque presented from Skylight's account? Who were the beneficiaries at Onkareshwar and what did they offer in return.
There are too many questions that remain unanswered pertaining to Skylight and this brings to light an instance of blatant corruption and crony capitalism that is ailing this country.
This is only one small transaction. As stated above, there are thousands of acres that have been transacted on similar lines either in violation of existing laws or for a consideration, at the cost of the state.
The state is reeling with scams like the teacher's recruitment, misuse of MNREGA funds, Moong seeds and several others. Those relating to land are the largest.
The people of India too have a right to know and unless this is properly investigated by central agencies and brought to its logical conclusion, the country will continue to suffer from corruption and crony capitalism, all at the cost of taxpayer's money.
It's time for some real answers.
Reference: Media reports