Shimla: Opposition congress virtually stalled the Himachal Pradesh assembly on Friday over the issue of green violations by colonizers forcing the government to concede holding of an inquiry and even to review the Apartment Act itself.
The issue figured in the house during question hour, where urban development minister Mohinder Singh was unable to satisfy agitated congress members about builders having been granted construction permission in densely forested areas, one of which was visible from the opposition lounge of the assembly itself.
While the minister tried to evade a direct answer to the question raised by Mukesh Agnihotri of congress by saying that information was being collected about essentiality certificates having been granted to colonizers between November and December, 2010, the agitated lawmaker pointed out construction activity taking place that was visible from the assembly itself.
Agnihotri said that the housing project was allotted to Bamloe Builders, which was a sister concern of Delhi based DLF Universal Ltd and recklessly cutting of trees was taking place.
He also questioned granting of permission to Optima Construction, another colonizer, for setting up a housing project at Kasauli in Solan district. A thousand trees had been felled by Optima Constructions at Kasuali, he said.
With the urban development minister unable to furnish the information, the entire opposition was on its legs and Vidya Stokes, the leader of opposition, demanded formation of a house committee for doing spot inspection and submitting a report within a day.
Relenting to opposition pressure, Mohinder Singh said that Bemloe Builders had been given clearances under the law. However, he said construction work at both the Shimla and Solan sites would be stopped and an inquiry to forest violations would be held.
Not satisfied with the government proposed action, senior congress leader Kaul Singh questioned the governments’ wisdom in allowing Bemloe Builders to construct cottages within a demarcated protected forest (DPF).
He said that while Shimla was facing water shortages and mounting traffic problems, housing project in and around the city would only add to woes of the people. The congress leader demanded repealing of the Apartment Act.
It was chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal who saved the government further embarrassment by saying that the government had nothing to hide and would hold an inquiry into the matter.
“We are even prepared to ask Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to hold an enquiry into all the essentiality certificates issued for constructions that have taken place since the Apartment Act was enacted by the previous congress government,” he said.
Later, while replying to the budget debate, Dhumal said that the government was serious about correcting the impression going around that Himachal Pradesh was up for sale “The Apartment Act would be reviewed,” he said.