The CAG’s new report has revealed that Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, was given undue favours by Bhupinder Singh Hooda led Haryana’s previous Congress government.
The Comptroller and Auditor General report, tabled in the Haryana assembly on Tuesday, said that the “possibility of extending undue benefit to particular applicant (Vadra’s company) cannot be ruled out”. It has also questioned the “distinction” made by the Hooda government for Vadra’s company in giving permissions.
The CAG has blamed former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda led government for obliging Vadra with quick sanction of the permissions required.
Vadra’s company, Skylight Hospitality, sold a prime 3.5 acre piece of land in Manesar in Gurgaon district to DLF in 2008 for Rs.58 crore. The land had, however, only cost his company around Rs.15 crore and was sold to DLF after obtaining change of land use (CLU) and other permissions from the Hooda government.
Vadra’s land deals were brought into limelight by senior bureaucrat Ashok Khemka, who was transferred by the state government to take heat from the scandal.
Alleging that Vadra’s land deals caused loss of crores of rupees to the state exchequer, Khemka had marked a probe into all land deals of Vadra and his companies since 2005. But the Hooda government gave Vadra a clean chit and instead chargesheeted Khemka for his actions.
Vadra had bought land in four districts of Gurgaon, Palwal, Faridabad and Mewat in Haryana adjoining Delhi.
With an eye on wooing voters ahead of what is expected to be a tough national election, India’s Hindu nationalist government announced cash handouts of billions of dollars for poor farmers.
In the annual budget presented in parliament Friday, interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said 120 million farmers with less than two hectares of land would get an income of $85 a year.
Goyal announced that the measure, which will cost about $10.5 billion, would be implemented with immediate effect. “This will pave the way for them to earn a respectable living,” he said. “Such support will help them avoid indebtedness.”
Farmers complain that a sharp decline in crop prices has hurt their incomes and driven millions into debt. Rural experts said they were not sure whether the measure will assuage disgruntled rural communities that have been demanding loan waivers and better prices for their produce.
The government also announced a pension scheme of about $40 a month for nearly 100 million poor workers in the country’s vast unorganized sector and tax breaks for the middle classes.
The welfare measures come as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party tries to address rising discontent in the country — there is growing anger in rural areas over falling crop prices and widespread worries that his government has failed to create jobs to meet the needs of the country’s huge young population.
The Bharatiya Janata Party recently lost elections in three heartland states, raising concerns it could struggle to win a majority in the upcoming elections. Modi had sailed to power in 2014 on the promise of creating millions of jobs.
Although economic growth numbers have been good, lack of jobs has emerged as the biggest challenge for Modi. A report in the Business Standard newspaper says a government survey that has not been released pegs the unemployment rate at a 45-year high of 6.1 percent.
Expressing optimism that “India is solidly back on track and marching towards growth and prosperity,” Goyal said that infrastructure projects such as building roads in rural areas will boost employment.
The opposition Congress Party slammed the income support of $85 a year announced for farmers as inadequate. Saying that it is not going to be transformational, senior party leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted, “₹6000 [6,000 rupees, or $84] in income support for farmers boils down to ₹500 [500 rupees, or $7] per month. Is that supposed to enable them to live with the honor and dignity?”
The Congress Party is also trying to woo voters with the promise of a minimum income for the poor if it wins the upcoming general election. The BJP has dismissed the pledge as unaffordable, while economists have expressed concern that the “competitive populism” by India’s two main parties ahead of general elections could strain the country’s finances.
The government said the fiscal deficit this year will rise from 3.3 percent to 3.4 percent due to the outlay for the income scheme for farmers. (VOA)