IT was March 2013, when Chhattar Singh, Principal Secretary (PS) to the Chief Minister of Haryana was about to retire and the new incumbent had to be selected. There were many officers in line. At the time, I met one of the senior-most officers, who too desired the prestigious post. We discussed the possibilities about who would be selected by Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the Chief Minister of Haryana. In the discussion, he said that the selection required the tacit consent of Venod Sharma, the controversial Congress MLA and liquor baron. I was taken aback. He further said that not only Venod Sharma, but the PS to CM also needed the backing of the influential builder lobby of Haryana. As a journalist, this was the first clue to the Cover Story that we carry in this issue. I sensed a big scam. Following this conversation, I toured the State many times and met a lot of leaders, officers and common people. The story built up slowly. What our Associate Editor Neeraj Mahajan unravelled was shocking—a complete surrender of the State administrative machinery before the almighty builder mafia. I have been covering Haryana for the last 31 years and in my experience, no Chief Minister had ever been influenced by an extra-constitutional authority in the selection of a PS in the Chief Minister’s Secretariat. Not only the PS, but also the District Collectors (DC) and Superintendent of Police (SP) have always been the personal choice of the Chief Minister.
Venod Sharma; Kunal Bhadoo, Hooda’s son-in-law; Kabul Chawla, businessman and close associate of Hooda; Anil Bhalla, CMD Vatika Group; Arvind Walia, owner of Ramprastha Developers Pvt Ltd; KP Singh, DLF Chairman; and, Sameer Gehlaut of Indiabulls were the names that figured prominently in the search for the story. Senior officers confided that nothing moved without their go-ahead. According to the whispers, they are the de facto chief ministers of Haryana.
The State has approximately 200 builders, who are constructing the so-called modern Haryana. It is astonishing that these 200 builders have around 20,000 companies registered with the Registrar of Companies. How the web of these companies is allegedly converting huge amounts of black money into white and vice versa, is a matter that needs further investigation.
In the early 1990s, the Delhi Lease and Finance Company (DLF) started developing some patches of land in Gurgaon, but it was on a very small scale. Getting licences and acquiring land was a tough task as the land-owning community was not willing to surrender the land for private colonisation. So, DLF first used to buy the land from farmers and then allegedly KP Singh personally used to meet the Chief Minister for change of land use (CLU). All the Lals (Bansi, Bhajan and Devi) of Haryana were clued into the sentiments of the masses. But, a new era of State planning surfaced with Bhupinder Singh Hooda coming to power. It is for the architectural institutes, administrators and town planners to study how a city can be planned without water, electricity, roads or other public amenities.
The clearance of 100 per cent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in real estate by the Manmohan Singh government opened up the Pandora’s Box in Haryana. Today, the real estate sector in Haryana presents an ugly state of affairs—unorganised and unprotected labour working on haphazard and hurriedly constructed castles. Hooda’s vision of development in Haryana includes almost everyone who can enrich him, his friends and families, ignoring the people of the State. gfiles is taking the cause before the Hon’ble Supreme Court as a public interest initiative, to decide what a citizen of a State should do when the State administrative machinery becomes subservient to extra-constitutional authorities.