When Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s son-in-law Kunal Bhadoo began advertising his Kunskapsskolan Eduventures last year, he chose Gurgaon to launch this well-regarded Swedish personalised education system in the country. As the new school called ‘Kunskapsskolan’ (the knowledge school in Swedish) began coming up in a cul de sac in Phase 1 of DLF city, horrified residents realised that the school, spread over five acres, is being built on land originally meant for a park and about 80 plots, all of which stand cancelled to accommodate it.
DLF claims that the decision to convert the park into a school site was taken in 1989 and money was returned to the residents who had paid extra for the preferential land allotment. However, in January 2009, acting on a petition by a DLF Residents Welfare Association protesting the conversion of parks into commercial ventures, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had directed the State’s Director of Town and Country Planning that those sites of DLF, which were originally reserved as green areas but were converted to another use by revising the plan, should be restored as such, subject to the condition that no third party interests in respect of that area has been created by the developer. Three months later, in April 2009, the building plans of the school were given approval.
The original developer, in this case DLF Universal Ltd., showed that it had entered into an agreement with its sister concern, the DLF Educational Charitable Trust, which now owns the land, to build the school. However, a 2001 High Court judgment has described the Trust as a “duplicate” of DLF, “created to fiddle with figures.”
“A consuming avarice and not charity, is the cause of its creation,” the court has said.
Since then, a small resistance movement has been started by the residents under the banner of Progressive Residents Welfare Association, who are not only upset at the usurping of their park, but at the prospect of their narrow 12-metre wide inner roads being clogged by scores of school buses and cars for which the developer has not provided suitable access.
Last year, the Trust entered into a 30-year lease with Manav Rachna Group of Educational Institutions for this school, which has in turn tied up with Kunskappsskolan Eduventures Ltd., with Mr. Bhadoo as its CEO, to set up the school. Those queuing up for admission have to pay around Rs. 2 lakh annually. DLF, however, told The Hindu that this is a CSR initiative. Then, Rakesh Bhasin, finance head of Manav Rachna, told The Hindu that they will be running the school, but the school does not have any signboard or prospectus with its name. Mr. Bhadoo, whose company has lent its name to the school, on the other hand, says that he is only a “content provider” and “will not earn more than Rs. 30, 000,” annually from this collaboration.
Says Justice D.S. Tewatia (retd.), one of the association members, that, “It appears to be have been done surreptitiously, and the school should not have been allowed to come up here at all.”
After sending letters to government officials from the Chief Minister, Mr. Hooda, downwards, the association filed a petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court last month to stop the school. To their surprise, last week, the court “permitted” the society to “withdraw their petition.” Secretary of the association, Milin Kapoor, however told The Hindu : “This is not what transpired in the court, as neither I nor our lawyer asked for it to be withdrawn. We will be seeking a review of this order.”
In September, a newspaper reported that the school was using prohibited underground water for its construction. But instead of DLF or its collaborators responding, the association was taken aback when the senior town planner of Gurgaon sprang to their defence by issuing a detailed rejoinder to the newspaper. Says Vijay Seth, the association president: “This clearly shows how the Gurgaon administration is bending over backwards to clear a smooth way for the school to come up in time for the session due to begin in April.”