A case of paying excess solatium to the tune of Rs 4.9 crore to land owners has come to light in the multi-crore Hoshiarpur land scam. Had the solatuim been paid to all the owners from whom land had been taken for Jalandhar-Hoshiarpur four laning project in 2016, an extra burden of Rs 9.93 crore would have been put on the state exchequer. As instead of calculating the solatium on the market value of the land or any other structure, it was calculated on the 12 per cent rate of interest as well.
The information has been procured through an RTI application from the sub-divisional magistrate’s (SDM) office in Hoshiarpur on June 19. In a letter of correspondence by the Principal Accountant General (PAG), Punjab, with the office of special chief secretary, department of revenue and rehabilitation, the issue of excess solatium has been discussed.
The PAG correspondence, dated July 26, 2017, mentioned that while checking the records, it was noticed that the SDM, Hoshiarpur, who was the competent authority under National Highway Act, 1956, for land acquisition for the NHAI projects, announced the final award on April 26, 2016, of Rs 286.36 crore, including 7 crore, on the office expenses. “The competent authority, instead of awarding solatium of Rs 133.22 crore, including 12 per cent rate of interest on the market value of the land, building and structures, besides trees, prescribed under Section 30 of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, awarded solatium of Rs 143.15 crore, by awarding the solatium on interest also,” revealed the correspondence.
The report further said that it resulted into extra burden of Rs 9.93 crore on government exchequer. The SDM office, Hoshiarpur, has disbursed the compensation of Rs 141.46 crore to the land owners up to June 30, 2017, which resulted into proportionate loss of Rs 4.9 crore.
On being pointed out in audit, the department stated that matter would be looked into, mentioned the report.
As much as 41.65 hectare land was acquired for the four laning in Hoshiarpur.
The PAG letter said that the total payment required for this purpose was Rs 276.36 crore against Rs 286.29 crore, which was deposited in the account of the competent authority.
Right to Information (RTI) activists Rajiv Vashisht, who had exposed this scam, questioned the NHAI authorities that when the land for the same project was also acquired in Jalandhar district and they had paid the rate of interest on the market value, then how could they not see it in Hoshiarpur.
He said that after his complaint to the PAG, this payment was stopped.
He also questioned the Congress government on what it has done in this direction till date. “When this scam was exposed in 2016, the SAD-BJP was in power and then leader of Opposition Charanjit Singh Channi along, with all the Congress MLAs from Hoshiarpur, had visited the farmers whose land was acquired for this purpose and assured them help, but now they should tell that what they have done in this case till date,” questioned the RTI activist.
Meanwhile, as per the records, for this project earlier the competent authority had demanded Rs 800 crore, but the NHAI in its letter dated January 14, 2016, had refused to pay this heavy amount, and then it had reduced it to around Rs 290 crore.