Seeking an explanation from Haryana on the release of Gurgaon land which the state initially proposed to acquire for public purposes, the Supreme Court sought details last week of every sale deed between land owners and private builders for 1,400 acres in the district where urban residential and commercial sectors are coming up.
But official records accessed by The Indian Express reveal that this practice is not just limited to Gurgaon.
In Sonipat, Ambala, Rohtak and Kurukshetra districts too, the state government has released over 800 acres “under acquisition” and these have eventually been cornered by builders and real estate developers.
Responding to queries from The Indian Express, the Town and Country Planning Department said: “…it is possible that through implementation of this policy such coloniser/developer also gets benefited to some extent, which is entirely incidental. It is categorically asserted that the intent of the said policy is not to extend benefits to colonisers/developers”.
Yet official records throw up a pattern, one that suggests how it happened:
n Under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, the Haryana government declares its intention to acquire land for “public purpose”.
n The announcement sends land prices crashing. The owners, mostly farmers, panic.
n Developers step in to seal deals and apply for licences to develop residential colonies.
n Land “under acquisition” is either released or the acquisition is notified under Section 6 of the Act.
This is what happened in Sonipat where 885 acres were to be acquired in the villages of Nangal Kalan, Aterna and Sersa. To build residential homes for industrial workers, the Haryana government initiated the process of acquiring land for “public purpose” to develop Sectors 59 and 60.
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On October 5, 2005, a notification under Section 4 was issued. On October 6, 2006, Section 6 was invoked for the second notification. In that one-year period, the market rate crashed since everyone knew the government was set to acquire the land. An acre could no longer fetch Rs 1-2 crore in the area.
This was when private builders and developers moved in. They made outright purchases or entered into collaboration agreements to corner 653 acres of the 885 acres under acquisition.
The developers also moved to seek licences. On December 16, 2005, InTime Promoters Pvt Ltd, which gave its address as 9, Kasturba Gandhi Marg, New Delhi, wrote to the Director, Town and Country Planning, Haryana. Incidentally, InTime Promoters was one of the sister concerns of TDI Infrastructure Limited which eventually developed the entire area for commercial purposes.
Another letter by Kanhaiya Communications Private Limited was written to the Director, Industries, Haryana seeking licence to develop a group housing colony.
In Ambala, 253.3 acres were under the acquisition process in the villages of Jandli, Kanwali, Sounda and Sarai Mehdoor.
On February 28, 2006, the Urban Estate Department issued a notification under Section 4 declaring its intention to acquire land of the four villages for “public purpose”. The Haryana Urban Development Authority was to develop and utilise the land for residential, commercial and an institutional area in Sector 23, Ambala City. Farmers who had houses on the land filed objections under Section 5-A of the Act.
The Alaska Construction Company purchased more than 100 acres of land in Jandli and other villages after the Section 4 notification. While the acquisition proceedings were still on, the company came out with pamphlets announcing a premium integrated township on the land.
On February 27, 2007, the Haryana government decided to release 158 acres — this was the land that had been purchased by Alaska Construction Company. Eventually, only 95.25 acres of the notified 253.3 acres were acquired.
In Rohtak’s villages of Garhi Bohar, Kheri Shad and Peharawar, 422 acres were to be acquired. The state government issued notification in 2002. In April, 2005, the Land Acquisition Collector made three awards for acquiring 422 acres. But private builders and developers entered into collaboration agreements with the land owners and applied for licences for residential colonies. Licences were granted but the Punjab and Haryana High Court found faults with the acquisition process and nullified it on December 20, 2013.
In Kurukshetra, 126 acres in Ratgal village land was under acquisition. The notification under Section 4 was initiated in February 2002. In February 2003, a notification under Section 6 for 118.52 acres was issued. Ultimately, 116.85 acres were awarded.
Responding to queries from The Indian Express, T C Gupta, Principal Secretary, Town and Country Planning Department, sent a reply: “The policy for grant of licence after release of land from acquisition proceedings has been in vogue since 1991.”
“The intent of the policy is to enable farmers whose land is under acquisition an opportunity to get the best price available for land which has come under urbanization proposals notified under the development plan; enable private sector investment into urban infrastructure development and thus channelise the scarce government resources into more deserving areas; enable Haryana Urban Development Authority, HUDA, to undertake integrated urban infrastructure development at a faster pace.”
“It is true that in this process, many of the farmers/ land-owners enter into a collaboration agreement with a coloniser/developer to provide technical and financial capacity for development of such colony, and thus it is possible that through implementation of this policy such coloniser/developer also gets benefited to some extent, which is entirely incidental. It is categorically asserted that the intent of the said policy is not to extend benefits to colonisers/ developers.”
“It is true that there are several districts where the farmers/ land-owners have taken benefit of the said policy for obtaining licences for development of colonies.
It is, however, informed that the government has been conscious of the possible misuse of the said policy and accordingly, the release policy was made highly stringent through issuance of a revised policy dated 24.01.2011 which prohibits receipt of any licence application under the policy after notification under Section 6 of the Land Acquisition Act,” Gupta said.