Punjab CM accuses Badal family of causing Rs 108-cr loss to state exchequer

| | Chandigarh
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Punjab CM accuses Badal family of causing Rs 108-cr loss to state exchequer

Friday, 01 March 2024 | Monika Malik | Chandigarh

In a shocking revelation that has sent ripples through Punjab's political landscape, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on Thursday accused the Badal family of orchestrating a scheme that resulted in a staggering loss of Rs 108.7 crores to the state exchequer. Mann, addressing the media a day before the commencement of the Budget Session from Friday, detailed how tax waivers and preferential treatment were extended to SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal’s Sukhvilas Resort in Palanpur village, shedding light on what he termed as a ‘blatant misuse of power and resources’.


The saga begins with the Eco-Tourism policy of 2009, allegedly tailored to suit the interests of the Badal family, specifically Sukhvilas Resort. Mann highlighted the conversion of a humble poultry farm into a lavish resort, a transformation financed by the blood and sweat of Punjab’s common populace. This transformation, however, was not merely the result of entrepreneurial acumen but rather a calculated exploitation of policies and regulations, said Mann.


“This is people’s money and we will recover this entire amount. We have taken legal advice and the AG is already looking into it,” said Mann.


At the same time, Mann made it clear that all the officials responsible for the same will be questioned. “These officials will be asked as to how these exemptions were given. All former ministers, who were involved in giving these permissions, would also be questioned,” he added.


The Chief Minister meticulously outlined the timeline of approvals and land acquisitions that paved the way for the resort's construction, pointing to a systemic bending of rules in favour of the Badal clan. He underscored the peculiar circumstances surrounding the approval of 7.20 acres of land under the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA) in 2009, revealing how only two companies, both linked to the Badal family, secured the nod for construction.


Mann delved into the intricacies of shareholding within the company behind Sukhvilas Resort, revealing a web of familial ties and vested interests. With Sukhbir holding a majority stake, followed by Harsimrat Kaur Badal and the Dabwali Transport Company, the nexus between politics and business became glaringly apparent.


The heart of the matter lies in the concessions granted to Sukhvilas Resort by the erstwhile SAD-BJP government. Mann lamented the massive tax breaks bestowed upon the resort, including exemptions from state GST, VAT, electricity duty, luxury tax, and annual license fees. These waivers, amounting to a staggering Rs 108.7 crore, stand as a testament to the brazen disregard for fiscal prudence and ethical governance.


“State GST and VAT, applicable at 75 per cent each, were waived for the resort from May 2015 to May 2026….Also, both taxes of Rs 85.84 crore, 100 per cent electricity duty amounting Rs 11.44 crore was waived for 10 years…Even the road, leading to the resort, was constructed by the GMADA (Greater Mohali Area Development Authority) at a cost of Rs 4.13 crore,” said Mann, armed with complete papers.


He added that forest guidelines have also been modified in favour of this resort, which charges Rs four to five lakhs as rent of a single room.


The Chief Minister minced no words in condemning the actions of the Badal family, describing their resort as a symbol of opulence built upon the sacrifices of ordinary Punjabis. He pointed out the irony of taxpayers' money being used to construct a road leading to the very epitome of privilege and elitism.


But Mann's words weren't merely rhetoric; they were a promise of accountability and justice. He vowed to leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of recovering every penny squandered in this grand charade. Legal consultations were already underway, with the state Advocate-General scrutinizing the case and investigations into the role of officials and former ministers in granting these exemptions.


Responding to queries about potential actions against the resort, Mann hinted at imminent measures, assuring the public that justice would be served. “You want to see JCB machines there…Your wishes will soon come true,” he added.


Furthermore, he made it clear that this wasn't a vendetta against a particular family but rather a crusade against corruption and malfeasance in all its forms.


Mann also leveled allegations against the Capt Amarinder Singh-led Congress Government, suggesting a lack of transparency and accountability regarding the Sukhvilas Resort scandal. He said that subsequent administration failed to address or disclose pertinent information, implying a potential quid pro quo arrangement.


In response to queries regarding the scrutiny of Capt Amarinder’s property in Parol village, known as Mohinder Bagh, Mann assured a methodical approach to investigations. He emphasized the need for patience, indicating that each aspect of the inquiry would be meticulously examined.


Mann further expressed readiness to even introduce bills or ordinances of necessary.


The Allegations

According to Mann, between 2009 and 2016, a controversial saga unfolded under the shadow of the Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1900 — strictly prohibiting construction in Ballanpur village. Despite this regulation, the Badal family managed to secure approval from their own government on March 2, 2009, for approximately 7.27 hectares, nearly 20 acres, of land.


Subsequently, the Punjab Heritage Approval Board granted approval to the Metro Eco Green Resort on December 16, 2010. Moreover, on March 9, 2012, Taj Travel Private Limited received approval for 23 kanals and 16 marlas of land in Ballanpur. Both these companies are linked to the Badal family. In a strategic move, on July 5, 2013, Taj Travel rebranded itself as Metro Eco Green Resort.


Mann revealed that following these approvals, all the land was consolidated, totaling approximately 20.8 acres. The majority of the shares in Metro Eco Green Resort are owned by the Badal family, with Sukhbir Badal holding 1,83,225 shares at a value of Rs 100 each, while Harsimrat Kaur Badal owns 81,500 shares, and Dabwali Company holds 5,350 shares.


Construction on Sukhvilas commenced on May 27, 2013, with commercial activity officially beginning on April 1, 2016. Mann alleged that the Badal family orchestrated the formulation of the Eco-Tourism Policy of 2009 solely for their own benefit and exploited various exemptions to amass a total of Rs 108.73 crore.


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