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CVC to probe ‘controversial’ mega projects

In what can be termed as a big embarrassment for the Chandigarh Administration,the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has decided to probe the “shady land deals” pertaining to the allotment of several mega projects in the city.

Written by Varinder Bhatia | Chandigarh |
January 7, 2009 1:04:37 am

Vigilance panel formed; records pertaining to the allotment of theme park,Medicity,Filmcity and IT park summoned

In what can be termed as a big embarrassment for the Chandigarh Administration,the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has decided to probe the “shady land deals” pertaining to the allotment of several mega projects in the city. The CVC has constituted a panel to specifically probe into the projects at length.

These controversial projects,which are worth approximately Rs 20,000 crore according to the prevailing market prices,include Amusement-cum-Theme Park,Filmcity,Medicity and the new phases of the Rajiv Gandhi Information Technology Park. The probe has put the Administration’s top brass under scrutiny. It also means all these multi-crore projects will be in limbo till the inquiry is completed.

In a communiqué sent to the Chandigarh Administration on Tuesday from New Delhi,the CVC has summoned all the records pertaining to the projects. All these projects were conceptualised and allotted during the tenure of UT Administrator General S F Rodrigues (Retd).

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The communication,received in the UT Secretariat,has directed UT Home Secretary-cum-Chief Vigilance Officer Ram Niwas to immediately dispatch the records to the CVC office in New Delhi.

Confirming the development,one of the senior-most UT officials said: “We will comply with the orders. The CVC will now probe all the matters at its end.”

The ambitious projects were announced with much fanfare and the first phase of all these projects were supposed to be launched by the end of 2008,but none of them has yet taken off.

Real-estate giants like Parsvnath and Unitech,which were awarded the Filmcity and Theme Park projects,respectively,have not started much work at the sites.

Sources in the UT said months after signing the memorandums of understanding,the Administration had not even issued the allotment letters to the developers. Several officials involved in the allotments are no longer with the Administration.

Pardip Mehra,Advisor to the UT Administrator,had recently put on record his objections to the controversial allotments. He even sought a thorough probe by a central agency into the Filmcity project. Rodrigues has asked Finance Secretary Sanjay Kumar to submit a ‘factual’ report on the objections.

Off track

The Filmcity was to come up on around 30 acres in Sarangpur village. While Parsvnath has written to the UT,intending to opt out of the Rs 191-crore project and demanding a refund of its initial deposit of Rs 47.75 crore with penal interest,the Administration is pondering over terminating the contract. The final nod is awaited from the UT Administrator.

The controversy
* Objections have been raised against the ‘last-minute’ changes made in the conditions. While the initial plan was to allot the project on a 33-year lease,it was changed to “land be allotted for 33 years on lease,renewable for two like periods”. In the final agreement,the land was given on a lease of 99 years. The Administration also allowed the developer to sub-lease the land,enabling it to make capital gains
* The Administration neither conducted any feasibility study,nor any sample survey before conceptualising the project
* The entire project was cleared in a span of a few days,but the Administration could not provide encumbrance-free land to the developer in two years

Another multi-crore project,Medicity was to come in an area of 42 acres. The UT Advisor has raised serious objections to the project. He has questioned the Administration’s evaluation of the huge chunk of land marked for Medicity. The Administration now says it has not finalised the revenue model yet and is still to decide on the exact value of the land.

The controversy
* UT Advisor Pardip Mehra objected to the project being offered for a little over Rs 22 crore,saying the land was worth Rs 200 crore.

An amusement-cum-theme park,which was to be set up on 73 acres in Sarangpur,too,remained in controversies. Unitech has not deposited any money after the first annual instalment of Rs 5.5 crore,as the Administration failed to provide an ‘encumbrance-free’ land to it.

The controversy
* The Administration allegedly ignored the General Financial Regulations while inviting tenders for the project,shortlisting companies and ignoring 13 times higher revenue.
* While the initial proposal was to be of a small hotel,the final allotment was made for a swanky hotel spread on 15 acres. The developer was not charged any extra fee,ignoring a recommendation of the Deputy Commissioner and the then Director (Tourism) to treat the hotel site as a ‘separate entity’.

IT park
While the first two phases of the Rajiv Gandhi Information Technology Park are already functional,a dispute arose over the new phase when the Administration announced a compensation of only a few lakhs to the people whose land was to be acquired for setting up the third phase.

The controversy
* The UT Advisor has made a remark that the 45 acres of prime land in IT Park,near Manimajra,is being sought to be given away on a very low reserve price of Rs 203.70 crore as the upfront fee,which is close to Rs 2,000 crore,according to his estimates.

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