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Behind Haryana land boom, the Midas touch of Hooda

Shalini Singh
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Bhupinder Singh Hooda
Bhupinder Singh Hooda

Robert Vadra may be the most talked about property developer in Haryana but the emergence of links between the man who sold Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law his first plot of land and Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has shone a spotlight on the crucial role played by the Congress-run government in turning realty in the State into a business worth thousands of crores of rupees.

Records of all licences granted by the Haryana government from 1981 till September 27, 2012, tell a compelling story — a story of political alchemy in which farmland turns into gold for all those fortunate enough to acquire acreage and the permission required to undertake commercial development on it.

In the 23 years preceding Mr. Hooda’s rise to power, successive Chief Ministers granted licences for a total of just 8,550.32 acres. But during the seven-and-a-half years he has been Chief Minister, licences for the development of a staggering 20,549.63 acres of land have been granted — an increase of nearly 150 per cent.

Mr. Hooda has already come under media scrutiny following his decision to transfer IAS whistleblower Ashok Khemka from the State’s land registration office shortly after he began a probe into alleged irregularities in property dealings involving real estate major DLF and Mr. Vadra.

Last week, Business Standard reported that the 3.53-acre plot of land in Manesar whose purchase in January 2008 marked the entry of Mr. Vadra into the real estate business belonged to a company whose owner, Satyanand Yajee, is a long-standing associate of Mr. Hooda. If the regulatory filings made by Mr. Vadra’s company, Skylight Hospitality, are correct, Mr. Yajee was a benevolent seller. He did not cash the cheque he received from Mr. Vadra until after the latter obtained a licence changing the plot’s land use to commercial and sold it to DLF for a hefty profit — something no property dealer would normally do.

Congress spokespersons were at pains to deny favouritism by the State government in the speedy grant of the Manesar licence to Mr. Vadra and they are correct. Skylight is not the only beneficiary of official help: It turns out that Mr. Hooda, who took office in March 2005, has allocated licences to over 350 real estate firms of all sizes, most of which were unknown or had no experience whatsoever in property development.

Of the total 20,549.63 acres that were licensed, 7,733.68 acres were in Gurgaon, 2,266.91 acres in Faridabad and 10,569.37 acres in the rest of Haryana. Commercial land … (Continued on Page 13)

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