Chandigarh administration under fire over mega projects

CHANDIGARH: Mega projects of the Chandigarh Administration have come under the scanner of the Union Home Ministry which has put on hold further land acquisitions and instructed the administration to conduct a special audit of these projects.

The Union Home Ministry has said such initiatives should be vetted by the Co-ordination Committee and the Administrator’s Advisory Council having representatives of the Union Urban Development Ministry and the Home Ministry. The city administration has also been instructed to implement the National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy, 2007.

The Home Ministry’s directive will affect acquisition of more than 150 acres, worth over Rs.33,750 crore. A special audit has also been ordered to assess the transparency of the process followed in allotting government properties. It would also look into the allotment of land for the IT Park projects and the status of the controversial mega projects. The audit will scrutinise issues of inadequate compensation to farmers on land acquisition, complaints about exemption, violations by selling land to private buyers or companies with reference to prevailing rules and the status of the three cases — Medi-City, Film City and Theme-cum-Amusement Park.

These projects are already under investigation by the Central Vigilance Commission.

For over four years local farmers have fought against the land acquisition policies. “The Administration should restore to us the land acquired for the mega projects and start the process again under the new rehabilitation policy and Act whenever they come into being,” says the president of the Chandigarh Sanjha Morcha, Brigadier K. S. Kahlon (Retd).

The new directive from the Union Home Ministry is likely to heat up the election campaign here as all political parties are demanding better compensation for the farmers. Pind Bachao Committee president Angrez Singh said their efforts “against cruel land acquisition” have borne results, but the battle would be won only after the farmers are given their due share.

Manimajra Farmers’ Welfare and Environment Protection Society president H. S. Johl said the directive would go a long way in checking indiscriminate land acquisition. “The special audit will bring transparency in the working of the Administration, which had been giving a raw deal to the farmers by implementing anti-people policies,” Mr. Johl added.

Social activist Hemant Goswami has demanded an independent, unbiased investigation into the land acquisition. “We feel that just reversing the decision of the Administration is not enough; the IAS officers and the political appointees who have been instrumental in corrupt and illegal activities must be made accountable and be sent to prison.”

publihsed on Friday, Apr 10, 2009

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