Reacting to The Indian Express report that the Delhi Development Authority changed its layout plan to allot a north Delhi plot earmarked for a post office to an NGO closely associated with Union Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Vijay Goel, the AAP Thursday slammed the DDA and former Lt Governor Najeeb Jung for not making any such concession to allot land to the Delhi government for construction of hospitals and mohalla clinics.
Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, referring to The Indian Express report, tweeted saying “it pains me” that Delhi government was not being given land for mohalla clinics, and Delhi government’s “own land” was “not being allowed” for the purpose.
Questioning the allotment of land to Vaish Aggarwal Educational Society (VAES) by the then DDA chairman Najeeb Jung, AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj said it should be asked in how “many cases till now has the DDA… allotted land by allowing the applicant to change the reason for purchase as per his requirements”. He alleged that Jung had continuously blocked welfare projects of the Delhi government, while favouring the BJP.
On Thursday, The Indian Express had reported that the DDA changed its layout plan to allot a plot to VAES in September 2016. In fact, Goel’s NGO kept asking for the plot, adjacent to a school it runs. And at one point, it openly upbraided the DDA for seeking documents. DDA records of 2015 mentioned Goel as VAES vice-president, son Siddhant and daughter Vidyun among members. The VAES sought land from the DDA to set up a toy bank.
Bhardwaj said: “If you look at the way DDA has been operating, they have never given the Delhi government any land for doing public work. At different times, Delhi’s Health Secretary, Health Minister, Chief Minister have written to the DDA and its (then) chairman, Lt Governor Najeeb Jung, repeatedly… and said that these are the land pieces of the DDA which are lying empty and we need these land pieces to make mohalla clinics and hospitals. But DDA has not given us any land.”
He said several letters had been sent by the AAP government in Delhi for procurement of empty land, including a “detailed list of 18 properties… being unlawfully used by societies where terms of conditions had expired”.
“The government had requested for these plots to build hospitals and mohalla clinics that the land had initially been sanctioned for, but no response has come. The Transport department repeatedly sent petitions for land for bus depots, but to no avail. Landfill areas around Delhi are overflowing but land is not being made available for that either,” Bhardwaj said.
Meanwhile Vijay Goel, at a press conference Thursday, denied any wrongdoing and said of the VAES: “Initially, the Society wanted 1000 sq m plot, which could have been allotted anywhere, but the reason for opting this lesser area (488 sq m) site for this noble cause was that it is surrounded by Jhuggi-Jhopri clusters, where the underprivileged children reside. Also, the Society has already been working in this Jhuggi-Jhopri area.”
Goel, who put up the same defence in a letter to The Indian Express, said: “I resigned from the post of Vice President of the VAES in 2013 itself and the copy of the current/existing Members had been duly sent to the Registrar of Societies at that time… Further, I am not even active in day to day activities of VAES.”
“If the DDA has papers which has my name, it is because you have to submit the names of all the members who were a part of the Society at the time of its formation,” he said. He claimed that when the application for land was made in 2013 he was “neither a member of Rajya Sabha nor a minister”.
“Is it wrong to be a minister? We work 24 hours for society,” Goel said. “Layout plans are changed repeatedly every month.”
Goel’s claims, and what The Indian Express found:
Claim: Particular plot was selected because it was surrounded by jhuggi jhonpri clusters where underprivileged children reside.
Fact: As per DDA records, the ‘zonal green’ land next to the plot given to VAES used to be “encroached by jhuggis”. That land has long been cleared of encroachment and now lies walled, locked and unoccupied. The allotted plot is adjacent to Adharsheela Vatika, a playschool run by VAES.
Claim: Goel was not a Minister or MP when VAES applied for land.
Fact: As per DDA records, VAES wrote to it at least four times between March 2014 and June 2016. Goel became a Rajya Sabha member in January 2014. Goel became a minister in July 2016. The land was allotted to VAES in September 2016.
Claim: Goel not the vice-president and active member of VAES since 2013.
Fact: DDA records mention Goel as the vice-president and his son and daughter as members of VAES based on the society’s application (form no. 0429) dated August 7, 2015.
Claim: Change of layout plan is routine activity.
Fact: Neither DDA nor Goel could cite any precedent of allotting land meant for government use to a private party by changing the layout plan.
Claim: Layout plan was already changed in 2003 to allot the plot for temple construction.
Fact: In 2003, a proposal for changing the layout plan was recommended in one of the 291 cases which were stayed pending investigation.
Claim: Goel said it is wrong to say that the application did not have sponsorship
Fact: As per DDA records, the sponsorship letter submitted by the VAES was addressed to the VAES instead of the DDA, and “merely mentions support to all the activities of the society and does not recommend or give sponsorship for allowing land.” However, DDA cleared the application in the absence of a valid sponsorship while deferring other applications on the same ground. Then, to complete paperwork, the DDA wrote to the Ministry of Women and Child Development to provide a proper sponsorship.
Claim: Toy bank covered under socio-cultural category.
Fact: As per the Delhi Master Plan 2021 and the DDA’s own records, it is not.