It's official. In a landmark judgment that will hopefully deter other scamsters, the Punjab & Haryana High Court has cancelled the 350 acre DLF land allotment by the Haryana government. This was the second blow for DLF in quick time. Just a week earlier, the Supreme Court had ordered DLF to deposit Rs. 630 crore with Competition Commission of India, the competition watchdog, prior to hearing its appeal.
We have been highlighting how Haryana witnessed a series of scams that has now become the hallmark of the Hooda administration. In one of its most corrupt moves, the state government had acquired the 350 acre land in Wazirabad area on the pretext of building a massive recreational complex that would bring revenue to the state and benefit the local people through job creation.
The land was first acquired by HUDA and HSIIDC for industrial infrastructure and residential purposes, after the land was notified in 2003. Once the Hooda government took over, they changed the plan for land usage to setting up of a world class recreation and leisure facility that included a golf course and would also house premium residential units. By now the land prices were skyrocketing and land was being rapidly acquired by all private builders in anticipation of super profits.
By 2009, the state government had still not taken the relevant clearances for the project but instead set out to sell the land to private developers for setting up a top quality golf course along with premium residences. The state government invited bids from developers and set conditions for technical qualification of bids. The first round went out with only one bid which was from DLF. However, the second round of bidding had three bidders. Besides DLF, there was Country Heights from Malaysia and a consortium led by Unitech.
The bids from Country Heights and Unitech were rejected on technical grounds, and therefore, only DLF's commercial bid was opened. What is indeed surprising is that DLF bid Rs. 12,000 per sq meter, against the reserve price of Rs. 11,978 per sq meter, that translated to approximately Rs. 1700 crore.
So how did DLF come so close to the reserve price, when it was up against international bidding and there was a fair chance that the bids would be high? It is obvious that the state government by rejecting the other two bids on technical grounds, lost the opportunity to get additional revenue, as there was a good chance that the other bids would have been much higher.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has rightly cancelled the deal by noting the potential loss of revenue to the state. This only vindicates the stand taken by us all along that this government has indulged in corrupt practices for personal gain of a few.
The Gandhi connection
This brings back focus to the crusade initiated by Ashok Khemka, the upright IAS officer, who blew the lid on Robert Vadra's 3.5 acre Manesar land deal. The 350 crore land transaction happened at a time when Robert Vadra was offered a major stake in the proposed DLF SEZ. One year later, DLF bought back the stake from Robert Vadra, which gives rise to two questions. One, at what price was the stake sold to Vadra, and at what price was it bought back, within one year?
Second, why was he offered a major stake in the first place only to be bought back within a year? Was there a connection of his time at DLF and this 350 acre land transaction? These are questions that people of Haryana need answers to, since it is state land in question.
It is obvious to all that the son-in-law of the Gandhis was being favoured and that he had a hand in several other land deals in the state, as well, despite not having any prior business of his own nor any capital.
Today, his net worth has risen to unimaginable levels in very short time, thanks to his family connection and his close relations with DLF and the Hooda government. The question is, will the courts look into all other land transactions facilitated by the Hooda administration? This rampant stripping of state assets has to stop.
It is time the covers came off and the corruption that seeps deep into the Hooda administration is exposed. The people of Haryana have been denied their rights and their share of the prosperity, with illegal gains being made by a few. This rampant corruption is seen in various scams that have been unearthed over the years, while there are many more yet to be exposed.
Honest officers like Ashok Khemka have been systematically hounded, just because they raised their voice against wrong doings by the state. The High Court verdict only vindicates the position taken by conscientious officers like Ashok Khemka.
Why have the people allowed precious agriculture land to be converted to commercial and residential development, only to benefit a few? The state government is in total collusion with private developers in converting maximum tracts of land without any consideration of the impact on environment and at the cost of agriculture.
Unfortunately, as always, it is the common man that ultimately suffers. Today, in Haryana, there is very little development happening in the towns and villages. None of the so-called wealth that is being created through sale and development of land is passing on to the common man, who is suffering on account of poor roads, poor healthcare facilities, no electricity, no clean drinking water, no housing, bad roads, poor transportation, lack of decent education and most of all no jobs.
How will jobs be created when the state government is busy in selling precious state land for the benefit of a few?
It is time for the people of Haryana to stand up and raise their voice against this rampant corruption. It's time for people to say enough is enough. The people voted this government in and now it's time to vote this corrupt government out. The time for a Naya Haryana has come.