In a major development in the alleged Rs 59-crore Hoshiaprur Land acquisition scam, the arbitrator-cum-Commissioner, Jalandhar Division, has asked the Competent Authority Land Acquisition Act (CALA)-cum-sub-divisional magistrate (SDM), Hoshiarpur, to release the interim relief at the rate of 75 per cent of ‘Chhant rate’ as finalised by the NHAI to those whose land was acquired for the four-laning Jalandhar-Hoshiarpur project and whose payment is pending.
‘Chhant’ is the average sale price of one year as per registration deeds.
However, CALA is not ready to release the payment on the pretext that “original alignment” of the road was not followed and wrong land was acquired for the project in over a half dozen villages — a stretch of 4.50 kilometres of the total 37 km long highway — and if the payment was made than it may go into wrong persons.
The CALA also said that if road was constructed on present acquired land, then it would be a highly accident prone stretch.
A case pertaining to this was filed before the Arbitrator on January 5, 2018.
“While this case was under consideration before the undersigned (Arbitrator), an application under section 17 of Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 as amended by the Arbitration and Conciliation Amendment Act 2015 NHAI, was field by the PWD for Interim relief at the rate of 75 per cent of Chhant rate as finalised by NHAI on the basis of Chhant rate available at the time of acquisition. The PWD requested that this rate may be allowed as interim measure, which will help in taking possession for widening of rods for four-laning of Jalandhar-Hoshiarpur Section NH-70. On application of PWD dated July 30, 2019, the notice of the same has been issued to the CALA-cum-SDM, Hoshiarpur for reply, which was submitted on August 16, 2019 vide which, CALA-Cum-SDM has opposed the application of PWD for giving interim relief”.
“I have gone through the reply submitted by the CALA-cum-SDM, which to my understanding is without any application of mind. In this case, the award has already been passed by the then CALA on April 27, 2016 and award was challenged by the Union of India through Executive Engineer, PWD , Central works Division, Hoshiarpur on its being (on the) higher side. Now, if the concerned agencies are ready to pay at a specific rate as an interim measures in order to take over the land and start the work for which acquisition has been made, there cannot be any reason to not accepting it,” said the order of Arbitrator.
On the other hand, CALA-cum-SDM Major Amit Sareen, while talking to The Indian Express said that he had received the order dated September 3 about the release of interim relief but he is writing back to to the Authority (Arbitrator) to review this order again because as per law there is no provision of making partial payment till the case is going on.
“At the time of acquiring the land for this project, the original map provided by Louis Berger, a global professional Service Corporation for Infrastructure and Development, which was hired for providing the solution of alignment of road for this project, was not followed due to which wrong land was acquired in some villages where the payment is still pending. The PWD Central Works, Hoshiarpur Office, had even written to the NHAI for additional land acquisition so as to follow the original map provided by Louis Berger,” said CALA-cum-SDM, adding that in current condition the construction of road on the acquired land would lead to “an accident prone” stretch as there would be several sharp curves.
“The alignment is not proper as per the acquired land then how can the payments be made,” he asked.
“Instead wrong land acquisition should be cancelled and the required land should be acquired to make a safe four-lane highway,” he added.
PWD, Hoshiarpur Central Works, sources informed that they had written to the NHAI for a supplementary Award but the later had rejected it due to high cost of Rs 120 crore.
“Now, we have given an additional proposal too,” the sources said.
According to the PWD records obtained by RTI activist Rajiv Vashisth, who is also the whistle blower in this case, the improper alignment of road is found at a stretch of 4.50km – from Khwaspur village to Chulahi village. “In Khwaspur, 5.97 hectare land was acquired for the project and later 2.89 hectares was also needed to set right the alignment of the road, which had been shifted 220 feet towards west. In the same village, the land use of 3.19 hectare acquired land was also changed from agriculture to commercial to pay exorbitant rates to some beneficiaries. When NHAI rejected this proposal, the PWD now has made one more proposal of acquiring .91 hectare in the same village for proper alignment,” as per the documents procured through RTI.
In Dagana Kalan village, where no payment was made to the people, total 8.053 hectares was acquired. Later, PWD sought to acquire another 3.2 hectares (in a letter written on December 27, 2017), but when it too was rejected by NHAI, now a third proposal of acquiring less than half hectare has been made.
In Dagana Khurd, 1.95 hectare was acquired and an additional .3619 hectares is needed. In Hardokhanpur village 1.98 hectares was acquired and 0.6147 hectare additional land is needed. Here .93 hectare land use was changed after 3-D notification. Additional land is also required in Bassi Jana and Chohali villages. There 4.56 hectares was acquired while another 1.095 hectare is needed.
The alleged land scam came to fore in June 2016. It was alleged that irregularities were committed by the competent authority appointed for acquiring land for four-laning project from Jalandhar district to Hoshiarpur. The then Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), Hoshiarpur, Anand Sagar Sharma, was competent authority for acquiring land for the project. It was alleged that excess payment was made to the private persons by the competent officials by getting the land use changed (CLU).
Vashisth said that wrong land was acquired to benefit certain persons, who along with some Congress leaders had purchased land in these villages so that it could come under supplementary award proposed by PWD Central Works. He said that government can save a huge amount of money by cancelling the award on the said stretch and by using the same money for acquiring new land.