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  • Reality bites developers told to pay up or lose license

    The Punjab government has issued notices to more than 200 realtors and developers asking them to pay up external development charges (EDC) and license fee worth Rs 300 crore.

    Coming down heavily on the erring developers, the state government has given them “one last chance to pay their dues” failing which their license to develop colonies and industrial parks will be cancelled.

    According to the information gathered by the department of housing, the said defaulting realtors and industrial park developers owe nearly Rs 280 crore as payment towards external development charges (EDC) and another Rs 20 crore as the license fee. Now, the department has ordered urban development authorities to take these companies to task.

    The highest amounts are due from defaulters who have their projects in the area under the Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA). Here 68 builders owe almost Rs 175 crore to the government as EDC and another Rs 19 crore as license fee. The defaulters include some of the top real estate development companies (See box).

    The highest number of defaulters are those promoting projects under the jurisdiction of the Jalandhar Development Authority (JDA). Here 115 such companies have been given notices for the payment of Rs 7.76 crore as EDC.

    Another 53 companies have been issued notices under the Amritsar Development Authority (ADA) where these companies have to pay a total of Rs 33.24 crore as EDC.

    The Patiala Development Authority (PDA) too has issued 51 notices to developers who owe the authority Rs 8.92 Crore as EDC. Similarly, the Bathinda Development Authority (BDA) has issued notices to six companies who owe it Rs 2.04 crore.

    Several companies who have projects in Ludhiana and are being developed in the jurisdiction of the Greater Ludhiana Area Development Authority (GLADA) owe another Rs 51.62 crore as EDC to the government.

    While the annual default amount due to the government has been steadily rising, touching Rs 300 crore by June 2012, in the past 15 months the total collection by the housing department from EDC and license fee from various projects has been almost the same - Rs 310 crore.

    The highest EDC collection is also from GMADA (Rs 125.4 crore) followed by ADA (Rs 43 crore), GLADA (42 crore) and JDA (Rs 12.5 crore). The EDC from projects in Bathinda (Rs 11 crore) interestingly is more than that in Patiala (Rs 9.7 crore) pointing towards a shift of focus of development.
  • Punjab government launches Rs 13,000 crore road connectivity project

    7 Aug, 2012, 2251 hrs IST, PTI

    ROOPNAGAR: The Punjab government today launched a programme of Rs 13,000 crore to connect all major cities and towns in the state with 4/6 lane expressways, an official statement said.

    Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal announced the programme here after laying the foundation stone of Rs 240 crore project of four-laning of 55 kms Roopnagar-Chamkaur Sahib- Neelon-Doraha road along Sirhind Canal, it said.

    Badal said the state has 1,739 km of National Highway of which 405 km have already been upgraded to 4 lane and the construction of 4/6 laning of more than 650 km of highways is on full swing.

    He said this project would be completed with in a stipulated time frame of 18 months.

    Badal said Punjab being a landlocked state, the SAD-BJP government has decided to develop best possible air and road connectivity as on rail link front, the state is always being ignored by the Congress-led UPA government.

    The state government has chalked out an ambitious plan to construct quality roads along with the banks of major rivers and canals flowing through the state to provide shortest route to the people of the state, Badal said.

    He added that these projects would have dual benefit as besides developing shortest routes, we would also be able to strengthen the embankments of these water channels thereby containing any flood like situation.

    Badal also announced the 4 laning of Ropar to Jalandhar road, a vital link between Malwa and Doaba regions.

    He assured to make Punjab No.1 state of the country on the front of infrastructure development.

    He said the dream of SAD-BJP government to make Punjab power surplus is about to realize as 3 thermal plants are all set to start production of power from the very next year.

    While revealing his vision for the future, the Deputy Chief Minister said Rs 10,000 crore project has been chalked out to provide safe drinking water along with sewerage facility to each house hold in all cities and towns of the state.

    Punjab government launches Rs 13,000 crore road connectivity project - The Economic Times on
  • Municipal corporation in Mohali still a distant dream

    MOHALI: Despite getting a green signal for the formation of a municipal corporation in Mohali, implementation of the same seems to be a distant dream. With no house meetings and absence of councillors, public grievances of the region continue to be unaddressed.

    The problem started when Mohali municipal council was converted into municipal corporation — the council had 31 wards, but for a corporation at least 50 wards are mandatory. Considering that the government gives its nod for elections, it will take minimum six months for its proper formation.

    On January 2011, the Punjab government issued a notification to upgrade the status of the civic body to that of a municipal corporation with immediate effect, but without making any changes in its present working. With this, the Mohali municipal council, established in 1984, stands dissolved permanently, leaving all its 30 elected councillors, including president Rajinder Rana and vice-presidents Amrik Singh and Harpal Singh dismissed from office. This development came almost eight months before the end of their five-year term due in August 2011.

    On November 2011, the Punjab and Haryana high court had issued a notification to the Punjab government where it had converted the Mohali municipal council into municipal corporation. The orders were passed by the Justice M S Sullar while hearing petitions filed by former councillors of the dissolved municipal council Mohali, Manjit Singh Sethi and Manmohan.

    On May 2012, the Punjab and Haryana high court had dismissed the writ petition challenging the upgradation of municipal committee to municipal corporation. Till now nothing has been done by the government to conduct elections.

    In the absence of the councillors the development of Mohali had also taken a back seat. The only officer available for public dealings is deputy commissioner.

    Resident of Phase I, Harjinder Singh said, "It's good that we have an MC, but sadly its just namesake. In absence of councillors who will address public grievances?"

    Resident of Phase V, Sunanda Goyal said, "The government should speed up the election process for MC. In absence of councillors all the developmental works in the area are hanging fire." MC commissioner Varun Roojam said, "We have sent the case to Punjab government and are waiting for an approval. Once the approval is here, we will take about six months to form a proper corporation as elections need to be conducted. Councillors may not have been elected as of now, but we are here to listen and solve the problems of the residents."

    Municipal corporation in Mohali still a distant dream - The Times of India
  • Jolted, angry residents to protest to press upon authorities to solve problems

    LUDHIANA: The residents of South City and Country Homes, near Sidhwan Canal, have decided to carry out a protest on Wednesday to press upon the authorities to resolve their problems.

    TOI had highlighted the problems of the locality and its residents on Monday. "We have decided to form a resident's welfare association and carry out a protest demanding the required infrastructure in our area," said Kulwant Singh, 59, who owns NKH Hammers and resides at Country Homes.

    He said the residents have been regular sufferers of bad roads which often lead to accidents. "The death of 26-year-old Rajanpratap has shaken us and instilled fear and agony in our minds," he added.

    Dr Vivek Saggar, 47, a dentist from the locality, said they will gather at Shivalik Petrol Pump, near Country Homes, to protest and will send a memorandum to the chief minister, deputy chief minister, PWD minister and to the chief secretary. "We will form a residents welfare association too, on Wednesday, which will look after the problems we face," he added. Kamal Goyal, 50, a builder from the locality, said it is necessary for the residents to unite and raise their voice against the poor infrastructure of the area as they do not want anymore lives to be lost in their locality.

    Businessman Prem Singh, 61, said even the residents who are not in the city on Wednesday have expressed their support for the protest and have assured to join hands once they are back.

    Jolted, angry residents to protest to press upon authorities to solve problems - The Times of India
  • DLF plans new projects in Ludhiana, Jalandhar & other parts to strengthen its presence

    CHANDIGARH: Realty company DLF today said it plans to roll out new residential projects at Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Panipat and Kasauli as part of company's strategy to strengthen its presence outside Gurgaon.

    "We have plans to launch new projects at Ludhiana, Jalandhar (in Punjab), Panipat (in Haryana) and Kasauli (in Himachal Pradesh)," company's Director (North) Rakesh Kerwell told reporters here today.

    Though the company has not finalised the business plans entailing the investment detail in these projects, the company is in the process of carrying out study to ascertain demand for real estate projects in these markets, he said.

    "We have not yet finalised our business plans...but we will be conducting market survey to see the demand for deciding about the product like group housing or flats to be launched," he said.

    DLF, which has already invested Rs 2,000 crore in northern region on various real estate projects, has 25 acres of land in Ludhiana, 50 acres in Jalandhar, 12 acres in Panipat and 325 bighas at Kasauli.

    "We will be consolidating our land (bank) in these areas to roll out new projects," he said.

    The company today also announced to launch premium independent floor project 'Hyde Park Terraces' at its existing 'New Chandigarh' project at Mullanpur in Punjab.

    Dubbed as anchor project after Gurgaon, the project is part of 200 acres of integrated township project at Mullanpur and it will have 200 independent floors with a size ranging from 1,181 sq ft to 1,888 sq ft on a 350 square yard of plots.

    The company has kept the price range of these built up areas with 3 bedrooms and servant quarter at Rs 72 lakh to Rs 80 lakh.

    "The possession of these floors will be given within 27 months from the launch," he said.

    Acknowledging that market sentiments at present were still not encouraging, he said that DLF was confident of getting good response for its new project.

    DLF has already received tremendous response for its earlier project 'Hyde Park Estate' in which it sold 850 plots of different sizes out of 875 plots.

    "Initially, we started this project with 120 acres of land and we increased the size to 200 acres of land. Our vision is to take the project size to 1,000-1,200 acres of land at Mullanpur," said another DLF official.

    DLF plans new projects in Ludhiana, Jalandhar & other parts to strengthen its presence - The Economic Times
  • Sealing of illegal commercial establishments

    Owners protest against drive

    Tribune News Service

    Patiala, August 8

    Owners of the illegal commercial establishments that are going to be sealed by the Patiala Municipal Corporation (MC) authorities on the directions of Punjab and Haryana High Court (HC) staged a massive protest at Baradari Gardens today.

    Newly constituted Patiala Beopar Bachaon Sangarsh Committee led the protest against the authorities, which will seal all illegal commercial buildings in 36 Town Planning schemes.

    Addressing the gathering, Nirmal Das Malhotra strongly condemned the proposed move to seal all the commercial establishments, operational from residential areas. “It is sheer injustice for the hundreds of shopkeepers. The state government should intervene in the matter,” he said.

    HC had ordered the MC authorities to identify all such properties with unsanctioned building plans by August 14 and to serve a three-day notice to the owners. The court had instructed the civic body to submit the compliance report to the court on August 22 after sealing all such buildings.

    When contacted, Patiala Municipal Commissioner Gurlovleen Singh Sidhu said the administration would ensure that HC orders are complied with.

    Mayor Ajit Pal Singh Kohli went to Baradari Gardens to pacify the protestors. “I have assured the protestors that injustice will not be done. The matter is under consideration. But as of now, we are bound to enforce the court’s orders,” Kohli told the The Tribune. He also appealed to everyone to not break the law.

    Patiala Bar Association however strongly condemned the move and passed a resolution against it. It read: “Administration must take appropriate action in this regard.” A copy of the resolution was also sent to Patiala Deputy Commissioner G.K. Singh, SSP Gurpreet Singh Gill and Municipal Commissioner G.S.Sidhu

    Highly placed sources in the Department of Local Government, Punjab confirmed that the drive would be initiated in a phased manner.” “The big fishes are likely to be taken to task in the first phase,” said a senior official who wished to remain anonymous. Arrangements are being made for the deployment of heavy police force to ensure the sealing drive remained peaceful. “If Municipal Corporation Delhi can undertake such a drive few years back, why can’t Patiala MC,” said one of the district administration officials.
  • Promises bloom in periphery

    While sluggishness and low sales volume have remained the dominating factors of the realty market all over Punjab in 2012 so far, there are certain pockets that have kept the buyer and investor interest alive. A befitting example of this is the Greater Mohali area whose growth potential has kept the buyers, investors as well as developers in high spirits. The Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA) has played a big role in keeping the hopes of realty players high with its mega projects which have given impetus to the real estate sector in the area. In the past two years two of its projects —Aerocity and Eco City, near the proposed international airport and in Mullanpur, respectively — not only got an overwhelming response from buyers, but have also played a major role in setting up a buoyant price threshold in the nearby areas. Patiala Road, Mullanpur and Kharar-Landran Road have emerged as the main hubs of real estate growth as country’s top developers like DLF, Omaxe, TDI, Ansals, Emaar MGF, JLPL etc have residential and integrated township projects here.


    Proximity to Chandigarh, which has the third highest per capita income in the country and 68 per cent literacy level are among the main strengths of the region. Factors like strong economy, availability of highly skilled workforce, growing number of regional tourists and spillover from Chandigarh and Delhi have also been highlighted. According to Singapore based Jurong International the total investment in the Greater Mohali area between 2007-2011 was around Rs 40,000 crore.

    Big-ticket projects

    The 1,000-acre Aerocity project adjacent to the Zirakpur-Patiala highway has been a major factor in bringing in a number of private realtors in the area. The area's proximity to the proposed International Airport, clearance for wide roads and other infrastructure support have made it a good investment option. As Neeraj Kansal, Director, Royal Estate Group puts it, “The Patiala road is coming up as a promising realty destination with a number of residential projects coming up here. With a number of educational institutions in the vicinity, there is going to be a robust demand for housing here over the next few years”. The Royal Estate Group has recently launched a 200-acre integrated township project here, which is one of the biggest projects floated by a private developer in this area.

    The state government, too, is pitching in to boost development in the Greater Mohali area. While laying the foundation stone of the Chandigarh Royale City project recently, the Deputy Chief Minister, Sukhbir Singh Badal, made it clear that the government was serious about providing world class amenities in the Greater Mohali region.

    On the other side of Greater Mohali region lies Mullanpur that is being projected as New Chandigarh. Envisioned as a “resort centre, low density country living and northern gateway” in its master plan, Mullanpur, the first eco-town of Punjab, has risen as a stable realty playground in the region. Mullanpur Master Plan is spread over 6,000 hectares and will have major projects like Medi City and PCA stadium among others. GMADA’s Eco City project had generated an enthusiastic response from Punjabis wanting to settle near Chandigarh last year. Plots in the 400-acre Phase I have already been allotted, while acquisition process is on for a 370-acre (approx) Phase II, which according to official sources will be launched sometime next year. Construction and development work on the mix-use projects from Omaxe and DLF are already on in Mullanpur. DLF recently launched independent floors at its 200-acre Hyde Park township where plots had already been sold in the first and second phase of the project. Apart from these mega projects the IAS Society is at an advanced stage of developing its residential complex and the Greater Punjab Co-op House Building Society also has plans to develop a residential complex.

  • A mega thrust

    In what could boost the sluggish real estate market in the state and especially in the Greater Mohali area, Punjab’s Housing and Urban Development Department is all set to offer its largest mega project till date — Knowledge Park — planned over 1700 acres acquired near the upcoming International Airport in Mohali. Billed as the first of its kind attempt by any government agency to blend IT and bio technology-related infrastructure with residential and commercial components, the ambitious projects could give other projects being developed (though on a lesser scale) by private realtors in the area a run for their money.

    The Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA), the development agency of the housing department has so far pumped in a whopping Rs 2,000 crore just for acquiring the land for the project. “All the formalities regarding land acquisition, handing down land compensation and taking land pooling option from the interested land owners have been completed”, said a senior official in the housing department.

    A lot of deliberation and planning has gone in conceptualising this project. Recently, a team of Punjab Government officials had visited IT parks in Bangalore and Hyderabad to study the concept. The model of Chandigarh IT Park was also studied.

    Following tours and several rounds of meetings, the government, in a significant decision, has decided to develop the Knowledge Park accordance to the guidelines of the mega project policy of the state. Biotechnology and data processing have been included in the IT component to suit the interests of industry. The present IT policy framed in 2009-2010 by Punjab Infotech would be followed while developing the park.

    GMADA Additional Chief Administrator Manjit Brar said a 60-acre expo site would also be developed in the park. The Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB) has been roped in to work out the modalities of the expo site. The expo park is touted to be first of its kind north of Delhi. While giving 55 per cent component to knowledge-based industry, the commercial component would be around 25 per cent and the remaining would go to the residential areas. Five-star hotels and entertainment sites have also been planned. Officials associated with the planning of the project said a salient feature of the project would be that all minor roads would be 100 ft wide and would have 50 ft green buffer on both sides. Under the residential components, around 3,000 plots of different sizes have been planned. A major chunk of the residential component would go in giving plots to beneficiaries under the land-pooling scheme.


    As compared to Aerocity where residential plots were allotted at Rs 12,000 per sq yd and in Eco city, Mullanpur where the plots were priced between Rs 15,000 and Rs 19,000 per sq yd, GMADA has fixed the rate of residential plots at Rs 23,500 per sq yd in the Knowledge Park project according to the officials. Any variation in the allotment rates, depending on the plot size has not been disclosed so far. The rate was the out come of higher land compensation of Rs 1.70 crore paid to the landowners. The subsidised land rate to be offered to the IT and bio tech industry would be compensated from the sale of residential plots, measuring 100, 200, 300, 400 and 500 sq yd.

    Key pointers

    It will be a prestigious project, as a 200 ft road along Mohali would ultimately link the proposed international airport with the Kharar-Banur highway while crisscrossing Aerocity.

    It would more be like an IT park having residential and commercial components. The concept of IT parks in Singapore was being studied for the purpose. The area has been chosen specifically as expansion of the future city has been envisaged towards the southeastern edge of the existing Mohali town.

    GMADA is eyeing to attract a number of IT companies in order to make SAS Nagar an IT hub.

    GMADA has already written to the Airport Authority of India (AAI) to know about the construction schedule of the airport so that work on the road could be taken up accordingly. Officials said the Knowledge Park had been planned to take advantage of the expansion of the airport and other development in its proximity. The airport would act as a catalyst for the IT industry.

    Potential of future growth component to be exploited. With increasing urban development, there would be a commensurate shift of population from the rural areas to cities. Hence it is projected that 3.8 million people or 85 per cent of the total 4.5 million people envisaged in this region by year 2056 will reside in urban areas. The housing projects in the region would be punctuated with leisure, re-creational, commercial and institutional zones.

  • Patiala sealing drive takes political colour

    Cong, SAD leaders indulge in blame game

    Tribune News Service

    Patiala, August 11

    Wasting no opportunity to settle their political scores, leaders of the Congress and the ruling SAD-BJP combine have started a war of words over the ongoing sealing drive in the city. Congress MLA from Sanaur Lal Singh said instead of finding a solution to the problem, the SAD-BJP government was running away from its responsibility.

    Lal Singh said, “It is ridiculous that the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister are abroad despite the fact that the situation in Patiala is volatile because of the sealing drive.”

    “The silence of the SAD-BJP government makes it clear that it is not bothered about the interests of the masses,” he said.

    Hitting back, Patiala Mayor Ajit Pal Singh Kohli said, “Before making any statement, Lal Singh should first clarify that why at this crucial juncture, the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president and MLA from Patiala City, Capt Amarinder Singh, has gone abroad. It is really sad that Congress leaders are politicising the matter notwithstanding the fact that it is being done with the orders of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.”

    Congress MLA from Patiala (Rural) Brahm Mohindra said as the number of shopkeepers who would be affected with the sealing drive was high, it was the responsibility of the SAD-BJP government to take up the matter and explore all options in the HC for providing relief to the shopkeepers.

    Addressing a press conference in the city today, SAD general secretary Prem Singh Chandumajra said it was ironical that Amarinder Singh was himself out of the country and Congress leaders were pointing fingers at the Badal duo.
  • Villagers block highway to protest illegal mining

    Tribune News Service

    Nawanshahr, August 11

    Up in arms against the mining mafia, residents of over a dozen villages today blocked the Rahon-Machhiwara highway for over two hours. Having gathered under the banner of Sutlej Bachao Sangharsh Committee, the villagers, a majority of them farmers, raised slogans against the SAD-BJP government and the district administration for allegedly turning a blind eye towards the menace.

    The protesters alleged excessive excavation of sand from the Sutlej bed and the adjacent dhussi bundh had exposed the foundation of a nearby bridge. They alleged that the mining contractor had been flouting norms of the Mining Act right under the nose of the authorities concerned.

    “Throwing norms to the wind, the contractor is excavating sand beyond the permissible limit. The bridge, which links Nawanshahr with Ludhiana and Chandigarh, is facing a threat,” a villager said.

    Addressed the protesters, Baldev Raj, former sarpanch of Kanaun village and president of Sutlej Bachao Sangharsh Committee, alleged that mining contractors in the area enjoyed patronage of the ruling parties. “Therefore, the local administration cannot dare to act against them,” another protester said.

    Residents of more than 50 villages downstream the Sutlej have been living under constant threat of flash floods in case of heavy rains in the region.

    The river has even changed its course due to the illegal mining within 500 metres radius of the Rahon-Machhiwara bridge where the mafia has dug 20 ft to 25 ft deep pits, they alleged.

    Heavy machinery being used in mining had been even confiscated by local panchayat members on August 9, but the administration failed to take any action against the violators, they claimed.

    Also, the contractor is charging Rs 1,400 per hundred cubic feet of sand against Rs 260 per cubic feet, the rate fixed by the state government, they alleged. The committee threatened to intensify their stir if the district administration continued to remain “indifferent” towards the menace.
  • Wasting the rain water

    LUDHIANA: An ineffective storm sewerage system coupled with no attempt to harvest rainwater has led to flooded roads and overflowing drains even after scanty rainfall in the city. Fearing water-logged streets, the residents hesitate in praying for a heavy downpour during the sultry August.

    Of the four zonal offices of Ludhiana municipal corporation (MC), only zone D and zone A offices in Sarabha Nagar and Mata Rani Chowk, respectively, have a functional rain water harvesting system. The law asks for a provision of rain water harvesting on any house constructed over 250 square yards of land. However, the building branch, which is responsible to check the implementation of this particular law, has hardly bothered to do so. The other two zone offices of the MC do not have any provision to harvest rain water. "In the absence of sufficient rain water harvesting measures, a lot of water gets wasted, instead of being used to replenish the groundwater, and causes waterlogging everywhere," said Urban Estate resident and District Bar Association secretary advocate Gurvinder Singh Sodhi.

    A homoeopath from Bhagat Singh Nagar, B S Kumar, said the road sides are being covered with tiles, leaving no green cover to allow rain water to seep in. "Also, the city lacks efficient drainage that takes the entire water out of the city. The government has totally ignored such a useful practice as rainwater harvesting," he added. About implementation of the provision for rain water harvesting in houses and commercial buildings and the challans issued against violators, senior town planner of MC Hemant Batra told TOI, "It is mandatory to have rainwater harvesting system in houses measuring 250 square yards and above, but it would be difficult to tell how many challans have been issued in this regard." Batra added, "I accept the enforcement in domestic settlements has not been effective, but we have been able to implement it at commercial settlements."

    MC commissioner R K Verma said he will seek a detailed report on this issue from departments and see that the law is implemented stringently.

    Wasting the rain water - The Times of India
  • Inadequate, unfit water supply swamp Ludhiana

    LUDHIANA: The industrial hub of Punjab is submerged in water supply problems. Not only is the supply inadequate, but also unfit for consumption. As, submersible pumps, which do not have chlorinators, supply most of the water to residents.

    The municipal corporation supplies 365 million litre per day (MLD) of water to the city through 709 tube wells. Of these, 441 tube wells that are of 33 horse power can be chlorinated, but 268 submersible pumps — including 80 of 25 horse power and 188 of 12.5 horse power — cannot be chlorinated, as these are fitted deep in the earth. And of the big 441 tube wells, there are many whose chlorinators do not function.

    Unhappy with the city's water scene, Ashu Singhania, a resident of Model Town, said, "Unlike Chandigarh where water supply is clean and even tap water can be used for drinking, the city does not provide potable water which is a basic requirement."

    The low supply is also a cause of worry, with many tube wells and submersible pumps over 25 years old. Gundeep Khurana, a timber merchant from Dugri Urban Estate, said, "Why will anyone use motor if the supply is proper? It only inflates our power bills. The MC should ensure a proper and clean water supply."

    Inadequate, unfit water supply swamp Ludhiana - The Times of India
  • Irregularities in land acquistion for Sangrur bypass, say landowners

    Chandigarh: Scores of landowners, whose land is set to be acquired for the proposed Sangrur bypass, have allegedly discovered that the map of the proposed alignment shown to them in Sangrur SDM’s office was different from the actual alignment, which the National Highway Authority of India intended to follow during construction.

    A plethora of complaints filed with the SDM allege that the alignment has been changed to ensure that the land of several VIPs falls on the either side of the new road.

    The land acquisition notification for the proposed building, widening and maintenance of national highway 64 was published in newspapers on June 18. Those whose land was to be acquired were asked to file objections to the project with the SDM office. The SDM’s office had to put on public display the proposed alignment of the Sangrur bypass as part of the project. The khasra numbers included in the proposed alignment were noted by the concerned landowners.

    “However, this map showed a route, which was not the one proposed in the initial surveys. The yellow markings on the ground of those surveys are still there. We were shocked to see that several khasra numbers had been deleted from acquisition and many other included. This was done with the apparent intention of bringing the land of some influential people on the main road. This scam does not end here. Now, we have accessed another map, which the contractor is going to follow during construction. That shows that the proposed alignment has been changed yet again,” alleged Dr Amandeep Aggarwal, a landowner.

    Residents have also raised doubts over the transparency of the land acquisition process. “Louis Berger Consulting Pvt Ltd in Gurgaon was authorised to conduct optimisation surveys. It had suggested three proposals for the construction of the Sangrur bypass. One was to construct the bypass along the existing alignment that needed negligible land acquisition. Another route required acquisition for over 10 km and another alternative needed maximum land acquisition — over 12 km. The one which needed the maximum land acquisition was chosen for reasons known only to the PWD, which is carrying out the project for NHAI,” said Jagvinder Singh, another landowner.

    Interestingly, the PWD tendered out the work for building (widening, four-laning), maintenance, management and operation of national highway 64 in February even though the first notification for the land acquisition for the project was published in June.

    “The categorisation of nature of land in the land acquisition notification is also not updated. Agricultural land had been sold at exorbitant rates as plots for commercial and residential purposes. But the notification still shows this land as agricultural, gair mumkin, no makan, naheri chahi,” said Amar Singh of Uppli village.

    “A lot of injustice is being done to the owners of commercial plots, who had purchased these plots with opening on the main road, or plots with 2-3 side openings at the present market rate of Rs 20,000 per square yard. However, they will now be compensated at collector rates for agriculture land in the area,” claimed Balwinder Singh of Kammo Majra village.

    When contacted, SDM of Sangrur, G P S Sahota, said the alignment issue was a technical one and he was not competent to comment on that. “We are acquiring land according to law,” he added.

    Irregularities in land acquistion for Sangrur bypass, say landowners
  • 96,000 trees face axe for four-laning project

    Tribune News Service

    Bathinda, August 14

    Once the Zirakpur-Bathinda highway gets four-laned, commuters would be in for a word-class experience. Not only would the journey duration come down, the drive would be less tiring due to lesser traffic bottlenecks. But, the luxury is coming at a cost: nearly 96,000 trees will have to be axed for widening of the 200-km stretch.

    The project, aiming at ensuring fast flow of traffic from Bathinda to Chandigarh and minimising accidents on the stretch, would be completed at an estimated Rs 2,500 crore.

    Claiming it to be a milestone achieved by his government, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal had laid the stone of the project a week ago. He had said the four-hour journey would be reduced to two-and-a-half hours.

    Work on the project will start soon with the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests giving a green signal to it from Zirakpur to Patiala. The approval for the remaining stretch (from Patiala to Bathinda) seems to be a mere formality.

    Principal Conservator of Forests HS Gujral said: “The state Forest Department has recommended approval for the remaining stretch as well. Around 1,000 acres of forestland will be cleared.”

    Though almost a lakh trees are to be axed, no environmentalist has so far stood up to save the green cover. Half of these trees were planted a decade ago under a Rs 450 crore afforestation project. The Union Government had taken the money as loan from Japan, with a promise that the country would work towards improving the depleting forest cover.

    Gujral said: “Such projects are planned by the state government and forest officials merely give recommendations when it is provided with alternate land and money for planting new trees.” He, however, said the department was committed to afforestation and double the number of trees axed for this road project would be planted.

    Chief Conservator of Forests Kuldip Kumar said: “The trees that will be cut are of Sheesham, Neem, Arjuna, Brahma Drek, Melia, Keekar and Eucalyptus.”

    Earlier, over a lakh trees along the National Highway-1 from Shambu to Jalandhar were cut to pave way for the widening of the stretch.


    PWD engineer-in-chief RP Singh said expanding the road without removing the trees would not have been possible. “Development comes at a cost, mostly of the environment. But, we have tried to minimise the loss. We are giving land in Kandi area along the Shivalik hills for planting double the number of trees,” he said. On “faulty” planning as the project had affected the afforestation scheme funded by Japan, he said the four-laning project was planned only two years ago


    Dr Suman Maur, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at the Panjab University in Chandigarh, said a single tree provided a year's supply of oxygen to 10 persons. "By that count, crores of persons will be affected if the number of trees that are being cut is taken into account," she said. She said the state government should plan roads or railway tracks in advance so that trees are not cut. "They should earmark future expansion to six or eight-laning and accordingly plant trees."


    Principal Conservator of Forests HS Gujral said: "The state Forest Department has recommended approval for the remaining stretch (from Patiala to Bathinda) as well. Around 1,000 acres of forestland will be cleared." Gujral said: "Such projects are planned by the state government and forest officials merely give recommendations when it is provided with alternate land and money for planting new trees."
  • Badal meets traders hit by sealing

    Directs Punjab Chief Secretary to find out a workable solution; officials to meet tomorrow

    Tribune News Service

    Patiala, August 14

    Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today met a delegation of traders, shopkeepers and representatives from the medical fraternity who have been affected by the sealing drive being carried out by the Patiala Municipal Corporation. Badal told the delegation that the state government was aware of the problem of the residents who would be affected by the sealing drive. But, he also pointed out: “Since the orders have been issued by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, we have to follow a proper procedure.”

    Badal said such sensitive and crucial court matters usually took time. “When I was in the US, I had briefed the government functionaries to explore legal options to solve the problem. We have to ensure that hundreds of shopkeepers do not lose their livelihood but at the same time abide by the court’s orders.”

    The medical fraternity was led by Punjab Medical Council president Dr Manmohan Singh. Several private hospitals and clinics that are situated in residential areas are also getting affected by the sealing drive. “On August 16, the Chief Secretary, Principal Secretary of Local Government, legal experts and lawyers will hold a meeting to find out a workable solution to the problem,” he said.

    The delegation expressed its satisfaction over the assurances given by the CM.

    The meeting was attended by Punjab Chief Secretary Rakesh Singh, Principal Secretary to CM SK Sandhu, Principal Secretary (Department of Local Government) Suresh Kumar, Deputy Commissioner GK Singh, Municipal Commissioner GS Sidhu, Mayor Ajit Pal Singh Kohli and Senior Superintendent of Police Gurpreet Singh Gill.

    Nirmal Malhotra, vice-president of the Punjab Pradesh Beopar Mandal and Rakesh Gupta, who represented the affected shopkeepers, were also present at the meeting. The Patiala MC has stopped issuing notices to violators for now as the court had issued some fresh instructions on the sealing today. A list of over 2,835 violators was prepared by the Municipal Corporation (MC) but since the high court had issued some fresh instructions today, the authorities have decided to wait for the copy of the new order before dispatching the notices, said an MC official.

    Following the instructions of the high court, illegal commercial buildings under the 36 Town Planning Schemes developed by the Improvement Trust and the Punjab Urban Development Authority were to be sealed by the MC and the compliance report was to be filed in the court by August 22.

    The affected shopkeepers and traders had since then been protesting against the government.