Saturday January 25, 2020
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Haryana expands probe into Gurgaon land deals


Chandigarh: The Haryana government has expanded the ambit of inquiry into the issuance of licences for housing colonies on prime land in Haryana’s Gurgaon city, officials said here on Sunday.

Gurgaon_biodiversity_park_240The commission set up by the government under Justice S.N. Dhingra (retd.) in May 2015 will now probe the grant of all licences to colonisers and individuals in four villages of Gurgaon by the previous Congress government led by Bhupinder Singh Hooda.

The four villages are Sihi, Shikohpur, Kherki Daula and Sikanderpur Bada, where Gurgaon’s Sector 78 to 86 are now situated.

The Haryana cabinet took the decision at a meeting held in New Delhi on Saturday night just before Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar left for a 10-day trip to the United States and Canada to attract investments in the state.

The BJP government in May ordered a “probe into issues concerning the grant of licence (s) for developing commercial colonies by the Department of Town and Country Planning, Haryana, to some entities in Sector 83, Gurgaon”.

The one-man commission will also probe the grant of licences by the Hooda government to Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra’s company and other firms for developing commercial properties in Gurgaon’s Sector 83.

The Dhingra commission had pointed out that earlier terms of reference were hindering its probe into the grant of licences. The commission is headed by the retired Delhi high court judge.

Former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda recently said that there was nothing amiss in the grant of licences for developing colonies.

“Everything was done as per the rules. There was no wrongdoing by our government,” Hooda had said.

The commission would also probe the subsequent transfer or disposal of land, allegations of private enrichment, ineligibility of beneficiaries under the rules, and other connected matters.

Vadra and others were allegedly granted favours by the previous Congress government. In Vadra’s case, the licences were allegedly issued within a short time.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had pointed out that Vadra’s firm, Skylight Hospitality, had not submitted documents on financial adequacy. Despite that, the firm was granted a licence.

The commission will probe the circumstances under which licences were granted, whether the said entities were eligible for grant of licences as per the applicable laws and rules, whether the transfer of licences by the original licensee within a short period of time to other entities was violative of laws and rules and whether the town and country planning department (TCPD) had contemplated the transactions with reference to the loss of revenue to the government.

The commission was asked to submit its report to the state government within six months from the date of its first sitting.

The probe panel has also been asked to recommend “measures to take corrective action to prevent loss of revenue to the public exchequer and also prevention of undue private enrichment at the cost of the public exchequer in such cases in the future”.

The role of officers in the grant of licences will also be looked into. Complaints against the grant of licences and the CAG report findings will form the basis of the inquiry.


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PM Narendra Modi Launches Plan to Tackle Water Shortage in India

Modi Unveils Plan to Tackle Water Shortages in India's Heartland States

PM Modi
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks to the media inside the parliament premises on the first day of the winter session in New Delhi, India. VOA

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday launched a 60-billion-rupee ($842 million) plan to tackle water shortages in the country’s seven heartland states where agriculture is a mainstay.

India, the world’s second-most populous country, faces the worst long-term water crisis in its history as demand outstrips supply, threatening farm output and overall economic growth in Asia’s third-largest economy.

Almost every sector of the $2.6 trillion economy is dependent on water, especially agriculture, which sustains two-thirds of India’s 1.3 billion people.

“Water shortages in the country not only affect individuals and families; the crisis also has an effect on India’s development,” Modi said. “We need to prepare the new India to deal with every single aspect of the crisis.”

The plan launched by Modi would help replenish ground water and boost overall availability in Rajasthan, Karnataka, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat states, which produce staples such as rice, wheat, sugar and oilseeds.

PM Narendra Modi
The plan launched by Modi would help replenish ground water. Wikimedia Commons

India is the world’s leading producer of an array of farm goods, and nearly 60% of the irrigation for agriculture comes from ground water, mainly through electric water pumps. Subsidised electricity gives farmers an incentive to pump out more water, a key reason behind fast-depleting water tables in the vast country.

Supplying clean drinking water to millions of poor people and reviving moribund irrigation projects were a key part of Modi’s policies for India, where the monsoon accounts for nearly 70% of the annual rains needed to water farms and recharge aquifers and reservoirs.

Nearly half of India’s farmland, without any irrigation cover, depends on annual June-September rains to grow a number of crops.

Drinking water is also an issue, as about 200,000 Indians die every year due to inadequate access to safe water and 600 million face high to extreme water stress, according to the National Institute for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog, a think tank chaired by Modi.

According to UK-based charity WaterAid, about 163 million people in India — roughly 12% of the population — do not have access to clean water close to home.

Also Read- 45% Indians Feel that Enough Steps are Not Taken for Women’s Safety: Survey

Every summer water shortages tend to be more acute in large cities such as the capital New Delhi, Chennai — a car-making center dubbed “India’s Detroit”, and Bengaluru, the country’s software capital.

Modi also exhorted farmers to increasingly adopt drip and sprinkler irrigation and use water-management techniques as well as eschewing water-guzzling crops such as rice and sugar cane. (VOA)