Haryana has had to pay a very heavy price in the last 10 years of Hooda government rule or rather misrule. When a political party comes to power, it rides on the trust, hope and aspiration of the people that look up to the leader to improve their lives through clean and efficient governance. When this trust and faith of the people is misused for personal gains by all those in power and at all levels, then it's the people who face the brunt of it, as it is their money that funds the government in the first place.
So what is this SEZ and what is the scam?
SEZ stands for Special Economic Zone that was first conceived by China when that country first opened up their economy to international investment. Being a communist nation they needed international private capital and therefore, they created these special economic zones that allowed international investors, who along with local partners, could set up factories to manufacture goods meant entirely for exports.
What made these zones attractive was that the project was offered special rates on land, water, electricity, labour and best of all, tax exemption or minimal tax on all machinery imported. This was a major incentive and these zones attracted a lot of capital in the initial phase of opening up. The dramatic success of the project led to further opening up of other areas in China for investment.
India initiated opening up its economy much later and has since been trying to catch up with China's rapid development. Part of the process has been to emulate the Chinese success with the SEZs, therefore the SEZs were launched with much fanfare. However, due to a number of reasons the SEZs have not been able to be made operational in most cases. This has resulted in a lot of land being acquired and then not been utilised, as many SEZs were subsequently de-notified.
The same thing happened in Haryana. The state government announced the plan to permit a whopping 44 SEZs in the state, of which 30 have been notified. Firstly, the land that was acquired by the state government was rich agricultural land. This meant that the state was sacrificing the opportunity to grow bumper crops that are the state's core strength, in favour of manufacturing industry. Even this would have been acceptable if the intention was to create jobs for the citizens of Haryana. However, this was not to be. Several cases relating to SEZs are now pending in courts and include the possible violation of the NCR Act.
This is where the scam sets in. Once the land for the SEZ was acquired and notified, the state government then waited for a while and then de-notified it. Now the state government was free to sell this land to commercial developers for building residential and commercial complexes, which would have been difficult to allow, if the land was acquired directly by the private developers, given that it was agricultural land and the size of the land tracts was large.
The land that was meant for agriculture was lost forever to commercial activity. The state exchequer loses revenue as the transaction takes place at circle rates, which is much lower than the market value. It is reported that the volume of unreported money transacted is massive and runs into thousands of crores. Needless to say that there are several people from the present administration, who have made and will continue to make massive illegal money from these transactions.
Scams not restricted to SEZ
The same is happening with other tracts of land in the state, where the state has supported land acquisition from farmers at a low cost, in collusion with certain builders and then profited from each transaction by issuing conversion permits.
The scam that IAS officer Ashok Khemka brought out in his expose involving Robert Vadra was on similar lines, where he acquired land at a low cost and sold it immediately at a massive profit, all in collusion and support of the state government.
Captain Abhimanyu has raised the issue that the Haryana government is going slow on developers who owe the state exchequer Rs. 10,000 crore in External Development Charges (EDC). The developers were given an opportunity to pay the amount due in installments over a period of three years, but the amount has not been paid and is lying with the builders, at the cost of the exchequer, which is losing both the principal amount and the interest on it.
The state government has to answer to the people of Haryana what action have they taken against the errant developers and if no action has been taken so far, then why not? Why is the state government going soft on these developers, when the state has no money to invest in much needed development projects, which directly benefit the common man?
Are you aware that the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) is holding over Rs. 20,000 crore in unutilised money, when the state could have deployed these funds for developing other priority projects in the state? Yet this administration feels they do not need to answer to the people. The Hooda government has gone about brazenly flouting all rules to favour a few developers and this has got to stop. The state government has to be made answerable and it is hoped that one day it will.
Meanwhile, it is time for the people to realise what has been going on in the state and how their hard earned money collected by way of various taxes, is being misutilised. For 10 years the people have waited for basic services like clean drinking water, 24-hour electricity supply, a functioning sewage system, roads, proper education facilities, jobs, and housing. The people need to ask themselves if the Hooda Government has met their needs. If the answer is no, then the time has come to usher in a Nayi Soch and a Naya Haryana.
The same misrule was happening at the centre and the people of this country rose up to unanimously reject the Congress-led UPA and usher in a new era with the BJP. It is now Haryana's turn to exercise its right to vote in favour of the BJP to make Naya Haryana a reality. We need a scam-free Haryana.