Like most senior Congress leaders, Haryana Chief MinisterBhupinder Singh Hoodatoo has avoided commenting on the sharp questions raised by IAS officer Ashok Khemka about the Robert Vadra-DLF land deal and the issuance of land development licences in his State. Speaking for the first time on the controversy that broke out after The Hindu reported excerpts from Mr. Khemka’s 100-page submission to the government, a combative Mr. Hooda, with several bureaucrats by his side, answers some of the charges.
Following the uproar over Ashok Khemka’s 100-page submission to your government on the Robert Vadra-DLF deal and other concerns relating to the issuance of colony licences, questions have been raised about the manner in which such licences are issued in Haryana. They are seen as favours to political cronies.
It is the policy of our government to give licences to farmers to develop their land and not just restrict it to a handful of big builders. This was done because it was felt that the small farmer is being denied the benefit of rapid urban development taking place in the State. So, if a farmer collaborates with a developer (as Robert Vadra did with DLF), he can sell his licence along with the land and reap the benefit.
Are you saying that Mr. Vadra is a poor small farmer in Haryana?
He is a landowner. If he owns land designated as an agricultural zone, then he is a farmer. This uproar (over 3.53 acres) is only because he is the son-in-law of the Congress president. Thirty-five to 40 per cent of our licences are given to such small farmers who enter into collaboration agreements with developers. It is not illegal.
Not only opposition parties, but a senior Congress MP, Rao Inderjeet Singh from Haryana, has also demanded an investigation into licensing of 21,000 acres of land for various uses by your government in the past eight years, including the 3.53 acres that was part of the Vadra-DLF deal.
Rao Inderjit Singh has himself collaborated with Unitech and got a colony licence for 83 acres of his land in Gurgaon. Part of it is his ancestral land and part has been bought later. If someone with 83 acres can get the benefit of a licence then why should a small farmer with two or three acres not get it? He has as much right to get a licence. My question is, why should a poor man be denied a licence? When Inderjit gets a licence for his own land, then the policy is correct. When Robert Vadra gets it, then he says it is wrong. Why?
There is a demand for an independent investigation into the whole gamut of issues raised by Mr. Khemka. Why is your government shying away from an investigation?
An investigation for what? We have no complaint from anyone that Mr. Vadra has done anything wrong in Haryana. We have enquired into the two aspects of the deal that concern our government. These are, whether Mr. Vadra has paid the full stamp duty on the sale and whether the licence fee has been paid by his company. On both these counts he is clear. The rest is a matter between two private parties and the government has nothing to do with it.
Mr. Khemka’s specific charge is that Mr. Vadra falsified documents and entered into sham transactions to earn money from his land licence.
Who has charged? Which are the false documents? There are no false documents filed by Mr. Vadra. Corporation Bank has never said that it is not their cheque. It could be called ‘false’ if it was forged or counterfeit. That cheque [mentioned in the sale deed between M/s Onkareshwar properties and M/s Skylight Hospitality] was never presented or dishonoured.
As for what money DLF paid to Mr. Vadra for the licensed land, DLF should have come and defended itself. I am not sure why they are not doing it.
Mr. Khemka has also alleged that the government committee did not enquire into many other issues referred to it, such as misappropriation of panchayat land by misusing the Consolidation Act.
That is not true. Everything has been enquired into by the Committee. I have not read its report, but I think it is alright. No colony or commercial licence or change of land use by my government has been cancelled by any court. That itself is indication that there is no wrongdoing.
There is nothing new in Mr Khemka’s allegation. Everything has been clarified by our Committee. He is making an issue out of a non-issue.
If Mr. Khemka, as you say, has made false allegations against your government, will you take action against him for doing so?
The Chief Secretary is looking into that and has probably asked him for comments. It is for him to take action. I am never in a hurry to take action against anyone. Everything has a time. I am not a biased person, but will not spare whoever is at fault.
The media has raised questions on allegations made by Mr. Khemka about the Vadra-DLF deal, and yet you say that nothing is wrong or worth ordering an independent investigation?
The media is sensationalising the issue for TRPs. Mr. Vadra is a decent man. He could have filed defamation cases against anyone. He is only being maligned for being the son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi.