Updated: August 9, 2020 10:58:35 pm
The controversy over construction of a state-of-the-art museum in Haryana is far from ironed out. While Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has now given instructions to commence construction of the building on “top priority” on the undersized plot in Panchkula’s Sector 5, Principal Secretary (Archaeology) Ashok Khemka has reiterated that the same can commence only after certain essential conditions are followed.
Over two decades after the first time the site was allocated for construction of this museum, it was discovered that the two-acre plot (9,680 sq. yards) handed over by Haryana Urban Development to the state archaeology and museums department was in reality 1.83 acres (8,860 sq. yards). There was no sketch and no dimensions were noted at the time of delivery and acceptance of possession of the plot. The Indian Express did a series of reports on the controversy.
Even while grave violations raised by Khemka are yet to be addressed, Khattar has issued directions that the archaeology department may go ahead with the project on the 1.83 acres possession delivered to it, “as this project has already been much delayed”. Khattar added that he should be given “updates on commencement of construction work, which must be accorded top priority”.
Khemka however has said construction can begin only after some essential conditions are followed: principal secretary (town and country planning department), chief administrator (Haryana Shahri Vikas Pradhikaran (HSVP)) and chief architect, Haryana, should handover proper possession of plot with dimensions, area and site plan sketch”. He also mentioned “recoupment of the excess amount and compensation for the 23-year delay and preparation and finalisation of drawings by the chief architect” in the list of conditions.
The IAS officer also wrote to Principal Secretary (town and country planning) A K Singh and CA (HSVP) again, highlighting that “HSVP is not ordinary real estate dealer. It is a planned urban agency of the state. Each and every plot in a planned sector is mapped and measured before allotment. The act of HSVP officers/officials to allot and then hand over possession of undersized plot to a government department after realizing its full price is a brazen act and strains bona fide by suggesting fraud, breach of trust and falsification of official records”.
He has also written to the chief architect, Haryana, requesting “to prepare architectural drawings of the State Archaeological Museum taking the actual plot area of 1.83 acres with FAR of 150 per cent”. He also asked the director, Archaeology and Museums, Haryana, “to take possession of the plot as at site after proper verification of the plot dimensions, area and site sketch plan”.
‘Excess’ payment for ‘undersized plot’
The plot was allotted to the archaeology department on August 23, 1996, for construction of the museum at the rate of Rs 185 per sq. yard (Rs 17,90,800). Full payment was made to then Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) — now called Haryana Shahri Vikas Pradhikaran (HSVP) — in 1997-1998. Possession was given to the department on May 22, 1998. Ownership with Floor-Area-Ratio (FAR) of 100 per cent vested in the department on the date of possession was handed and taken over. On May 23, 2019, the PWD (B&R) informed archaeology department that the actual dimensions of the plot were not as per the zoning plan. It was subsequently discovered that instead of 9,680 sq. yards, HUDA gave possession of a plot of 8,860 sq. yards.
Later, the archaeology department had requested HUDA to increase the FAR from 100 to 150 per cent, which was allowed. However, HUDA asked for additional payment of Rs 22.88 crore, which the archaeology department paid in two installments in March and July 2017. HUDA calculated this additional payment amount at the rate of Rs 19,000 per sq. metre for full utilisation of 14,520 sq. yards (including additional FAR).
Khemka has been demanding Rs 22 crore excess payment be refunded to the archaeology department and a “compensation for delay in handover of proper possession of the plot” and “accountability causing loss to State Consolidated Fund” should be fixed.
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