Chandigarh: Transferred Haryana IAS officer Ashok Khemka has been in the spotlight for cancelling the mutation of the DLF-Robert Vadra land deal. But Khemka in the past has also questioned many other land deals in Haryana were he felt land was being misused.
Behind the rapid real estate boom in Gurgaon lies a tale of bureaucrats and real estate developers collaborating for windfall profits. In seven villages near sector 58 to 63 and 65 to 67 of Gurgaon, panchayat land commonly held and meant for roads, schools, hospitals was transferred to 20 private builders in 2008-2009. On paper, it was passed off as legal land consolidation where the developer's land was shown exchanged with the villagers' land. The catch is that private parties exchanged cheap land bought in far off places for very valuable village land located in key Gurgaon locations where property prices were booming.
Villagers moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court alleging officers misused using Section 42 of the Consolidation Act for the land exchange. It allows organising land to enhance its value and consolidate small parcels of land. Khemka was becoming a key stumbling block. As the supervising land consolidation officer, he wrote to the Additional Chief Secretary Haryana on July 25, pointing out misuse of the law. He recommended a criminal case be registered and an inquiry by an independent agency like the CBI.
Khemka's letter was used as evidence in the High Court. On September 6, 2012, the court cancelled the allotments and land exchanges. Typically, Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda denied knowledge.
Among other things that Khemka in his October 12 letter to the Chief Secretary of Haryana said were that panchayat land worth hundreds of crores was transferred to companies just a few days after they were formed. He also said that forest and hills were sought to be partitioned under the garb of consolidation to corner prime plots near highways and that panchayats lost huge lands in consolidation by deliberate under-valuation.
The High Court, too, was scathing. In its order, it said bureaucrats abused power and authority and allowed exchange of Gram Panchayat land. Ordering the cancellation of the mutation of land from Vadra to DLF was perhaps the last straw. Ashok Khemka had begun probing the dark underbelly of the government which was steadily swapping expensive village lands for cheap private land. Some people were getting rich very fast. Khemka slammed the brakes on that.