Chandigarh, Aug 28 (IANS) The Congress party touts Haryana as having the best land acquisition policy but some land allotment decisions, especially the charge of showing favours to the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust (RGCT), have begun to push the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government on to the backfoot.
The Congress-led Hooda government has been under pressure to defend its decision to allow the lease of around five acres of land in Gurgaon's Ullahawas village for a super-specialty eye hospital to be set up by the RGCT, notable among whose trustees are Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi.
The largesse to the RGCT alone is not in the eye of the storm. There are larger issues.
Oppposition parties here have demanded that Governor Jagannath Pahadia reject an amendment to the Haryana Land Ceiling Act by which having land limits for corporate bodies, leading builders, industrial houses, institutions and other categories have been withdrawn retrospectively by the Hooda government.
The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have alleged that the Hooda government is compromising Haryana's interests to play into the hands of corporates and big institutions.
The government's land acquisition policy has been facing opposition from farmers too in Fatehabad, Ambala, Rohtak, Panipat and other districts.
However, the biggest heat generated has been over the lease of land to the RGCT. The controversial land falls in the new sectors - 58 to 67 - being developed in Gurgaon by the government.
A public interest litigation (PIL) filed by 15 villagers of Ullahawas before the Punjab and Haryana High Court earlier this month alleges that 'unholy haste' was shown at every (government) level in processing the lease.
Cornered on the issue, Hooda told the Haryana assembly this week: 'The action of the government with regard to the lease to the RGCT is in public interest and in accordance with the law of the land.'
He defended his position, saying, 'There is no irregularity whatsoever in the lease and the same has been done in accordance with the Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Act, 1961, and the Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Rules, 1964, framed thereunder.'
However, the opposition is unwilling to accept the argument and is seeking a probe into the whole affair.
'If the RGCT had only social service in mind, it should not have chosen the most expensive address in Haryana (Gurgaon) to set up the eye hospital,' senior INLD leader Sher Singh Badshami told IANS. 'It should have gone to backward areas of Mewat or Sirsa to serve people.'
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)