August 26, 2021 7:50:43 am
TO AVOID land fraud on the lines of the 2016 multi-crore Hoshiarpur land ‘scam’, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has issued letters to the district authorities to stay change in land use, NOCs, sale deeds, registries of land till the time detailed project reports are not prepared for NHAI projects.
One such letter issued to the Hoshiarpur deputy commissioner (DC) revealed that the NHAI is planning the four-laning of an existing two-lane highway from Phagwara to Hoshiarpur (NH-3448), including Phagwara and Hoshiarpur bypass. Land acquisition proceedings have been initiated for the project by this office and verification of survey number by patwaris (village level revenue officers) falling in the alignment is under process.
The letter further mentioned that the alignment of the subject project stretch is now easily accessible and possibility of sensitive information leaking out cannot be ruled out. Thus, there are high chances of conversion of land or sale/purchase of land falling in the alignment. These instances have been reported in the state of Punjab earlier as well, resulting in dropping the proposal of development of highways or extra cost burden to the state and arbitration cases/land disputes, says the letter.
NHAI authorities sought special attention from revenue authorities to avoid these cases. However to be extra cautious, the NHAI letter further urged for intervention to pass a stay order against issuance of any NOC for change in land use/sale deed/ registries of land for the villages as per the list being sent to this office for Hoshiarpur tehsil of Hoshiarpur district till August 31, 2021, or completion of proceedings of 3 A notification under NH Act 1956.
NHAI officials said they have been following such procedures for every project and a similar process was adopted for the Jalandhar-Katra Highway.
RTI activist Rajiv Vashisht, who has been raising this issue since long and also exposed the alleged Hoshiarpur land scam, told The Indian Express that this is a big step by NHAI and it may stop land fraud across the state because a group of people, “in connivance with some black sheep in NHAI, have been committing such frauds to earn huge profits while the real owners, farmers, are not aware about the intention is these land sharks”.
NHAI officials said that after the 2016 Hoshiarpur land scam they were supposed to develop the Jalandhar bypass and for that the NHAI was to acquire 392 acres in 26 villages of Jalandhar. The 29.5 km Jalandhar bypass was to connect NH-71 with NH-70 from Chuharwali village in Jalandhar to Phagwara road via Talhan village, but NHAI was forced to shelve that project in 2019 because it had found several irregularities similar to Hoshiarpur land scam in the Jalandhar project where land deals were executed in some villages by a land mafia much before NHAI could acquire same land for constructing the bypass.
The land mafia — which got intimation about the route of this Jalandhar bypass — had become quite active in those villages and purchased land from innocent farmers and got them converted into the commercial properties by getting changed the land use (CLU) to fetch 4-5 times more compensation for commercial property than agricultural ones from NHAI in the process of acquisition of the land.
A complaint regarding this was also made to NHAI by Vashisht, following which an internal inquiry was conducted and the project was shelved because of finding out several suspicious land deals.
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