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Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Museum project in Panchkula: Probe into plot sale to archaeology dept opens can of worms

Principal Secretary (Archaeology and Museums Department) Ashok Khemka has demanded stern action against the erring officials and adjustment of the excess amount paid.

Written by Varinder Bhatia | Chandigarh | Published: July 30, 2020 5:51:02 am
The plot in Sector 5, Panchkula.

AN INVESTIGATION into Haryana Shahri Vikas Pradhikaran’s (HSVP) sale of a plot to the state archaeology department, allegedly for excess payment worth crores, to build a state-of-art museum has brought out startling facts.

The file on which HSVP claims to have taken the then chief minister’s approval for transfer of land “is untraceable”, said sources.

The then director of archaeology and museums department, S K Saxena, who took possession of the plot in Panchkula’s Sector 5, is no more. Sources said “no measurement of the site was done at the time of allotment (August 1996) or possession (May 1998) or raising of additional demand of Rs 22.88 crore (September 2016), which was eventually paid to HSVP”.

The plot was allotted to the archaeology department on August 23, 1996, for construction of the State Archaeological Museum at the rate of Rs 185 per sq. yard (Rs 17,90,800). Payment was made to the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA), now HSVP. On May 23, 2019, PWD (Buildings & Roads) informed the archaeology department that instead of 9,680 sq. yards, HUDA had given possession of 8,860 sq. yards. The archaeology department requested HUDA to increase the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) from 100 per cent to 150 per cent. HUDA then asked for additional payment of Rs 22.88 crore.

Principal Secretary (Archaeology and Museums Department) Ashok Khemka has demanded stern action against the erring officials and adjustment of the excess amount paid.

After the matter came to light, HSVP offered to cut down the road between the plot and Indradhanush stadium into half, and transfer it to the archaeology department.

Khemka junked the offer. “The road width is proposed to be reduced from the present 12 mts to 6.7 mts by adding a 5.3 mts wide strip to the plot. Narrowing the road would render access to the museum site difficult. The archaeology department therefore agrees to take possession of the plot as at site, that is, 1.83 acres with excess amount adjusted,” he wrote to the state government.

He added, “Possession of the plot was handed over on May 22, 1998, by a junior engineer (HUDA) to S K Saxena. The then director was negligent in taking possession of the site without actual dimensions and site plan sketch. But HSVP is not a real estate dealer, it is a planned urban agency of the state. Each and every site in a planned sector is mapped and measured before allotment. The dimensions and actual area of the site would exist in some pre-allotment HSVP record, but the record was not produced despite request and reminder to the principal secretary (town and country planning) and HSVP officers.”

“The act of HSVP to allot and hand over possession of an undersized plot to a government department is most brazen and strains bona fide by suggesting fraud, breach of trust, and falsification of official records,” Khemka added.

Calling the earlier possession certificate dated May 22, 1998 — by way of which the land was transferred to archeology department — a “defective certificate and no-possession”, he wrote, “HSVP must be directed to hand over proper possession of the plot with correct dimensions, area and site plan sketch and compensate the government exchequer as CM and finance department may determine for the 23-year delay in handover of proper possession of the plot for which full price was paid in 1997.” He also raised objections over the archaeology department being charged Rs 22.88 crore for additional FAR, saying, “it was an unjust enrichment of HSVP at the cost to the government exchequer”.

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