City Centre scam, Ludhiana
Chandigarh, September 15. 2006.
An eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation between the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, on the floor of the Punjab Assembly over the Ludhiana City Centre scam today rocked the House.

Sitting just opposite each other, both leaders yelled at each other. Protocol and decorum of the House was ignored.

At one point of time, the situation reached such a flash point that the Akali and the BJP MLAs raised slogans and rushed towards the Chief Minister infront of his seat. Responding to the situation, the Congress Ministers and MLAs shielded the Chief Minister.

The Opposition MLAs repeatedly disrupted the proceedings of the House and consequently the speaker, Dr Kewal Krishan, had to adjourn the House twice. He finally suspended all 42 SAD and BJP MLAs for the remaining period of the current session. 

However, the suspended MLAs did not leave the House till it was adjourned for the day and continued to raise slogans against the Chief Minister, the Speaker and the Local Bodies Minister, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh. Meanwhile, the Treasury Benches quickly disposed the Legislative Business by passing as many as 11 Bills in just little half an hour.

Later outside the House, Capt Amarinder Singh, alleged that Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, who remained present in the Speaker's gallery till the conclusion of today's sitting of the House, had been giving directions through gestures from the gallery to the Akali MLAs.

The tempers in the House began flaring up immediately after question hour when Mr Badal got up to know the fate of the adjournment motion moved by his party for a special discussion in the House on the issue of the scam. 

Mr Badal remarked that Capt Amarinder Singh had pocketed several hundred crore from this scam. It led to a verbal duel between the two. The Akali MLAs started raising slogans. Later, the Speaker announced that he had admitted the adjournment motion and asked Mr Badal to speak on it.

Mincing no words and making the Capt Amarinder Singh and Chaudhary Jagjit Singh a direct target of his “attack”, Mr Badal, said that the Chief Minister had pocketed the money earned from the Ludhiana City Centre deals. He further alleged that the Chairman of the Improvement Trust had been made a scape goat. 

The Opposition demanded a CBI inquiry, Mr Badal said. He said the conditions laid in the tender and later in the agreement were changed from time to time to make it suitable for Today Homes which was allocated the project. 

He said the company had a dubious past and was involved in disputes elsewhere also. No special purpose vehicle was set up which was to be set as a part of this joint venture project floated by the Ludhiana Improvement Trust and the private company. All rights with regard to the sale of property were also given through the power of attorney to the company. All this was done inspite of the strong opposition from the Principal Secretary, Local Bodies. 

He said all terms and conditions were changed at the behest of the Chief Minister. He said the over all scandal involved a loss of Rs 2,100 crore to the state exchequer and by now already loss of Rs 630 crore had been suffered by the government treasury. Mr Badal said the government pressurised leading companies to withdraw case from the Punjab and Haryana High Court against Today Homes.

However, in his reply, the Chief Minister said the government had nothing to do with this project and it had not invested a single penny in it. The agreement was signed between the Ludhiana Improvement Trust and the private company. 

Rejecting a CBI probe in the scam, he said inquiry would be conducted by the Vigilance Bureau which had been asked to give report in a month. He said as irregularities had been brought into the government's notice, it had appointed its own officers, Mr S.R. Kler as the administrator of the Trust to set things right and remove all irregularities.

He said if any financial bungling and changing hands of black money was involved in the project, it would be probed by the Vigilance Bureau and the Income Tax Department concerned. 

Chaudhary Jagjit Singh said the Trust authorities did not implement the orders sent by his department and because of this reason nominated Chairman and members of the Trust had been removed and an administrator had been appointed to set the house in order. 

During the debate on adjournment motion, a hot exchange of words was also seen between the Finance Minister, Mr Surinder Singla and the Akali MLAs.

Punjab orders probe into Ludhiana city centre scam 
CHANDIGARH: In a face saving bid, Punjab Government Thursday dissolved the Ludhiana Improvement Trust (LIT) and ordered vigilance probe into charges made by Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) against Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh for colluding with a developer in allotment of a Rs.3000 crore project being developed by LIT. 

The LIT, comprising of chairman and seven members, has been dissolved following a direction from Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, official sources said. Goverment has also ordered a probe by Vigilance department. IG Vigilance CSR Reddy would conduct the probe, official sources said.

The decision was taken by the chief minister after Local Bodies Minister Jagjit Singh sent a letter to the Chief Minister stating that the LIT did not carry out the directions of his department in the project, the sources said.

Demanding resignation of the Chief Minister for his "direct involvement" in corruption, SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal had yesterday demanded a CBI probe into the scandal. Badal has described it biggest real estate scam of the country.

Citing media reports, Badal had said "there is no longer any doubt that the chief minister has thrown every rule, every law and every norm of public accountability out of the window for looting public exchequer." The top SAD leadership alleged that despite various objections and 53 recommendations by the secretary of the local bodies, the deal was given a green signal to favour the promoters. It alleged that the Rs 3000 crore 'Ludhiana City Centre' project did not even had the required plan sanction.

The alleged wrong-doings in the multi-crore project, being developed by the LIT along with its joint venture partner 'Today Homes' on a 25.5 acres of prime land was exposed by media recently.

City Centre case: sale stopped Fresh agreement to be signed

Chandigarh, September 15
The Punjab Government today stopped the sale of property at the controversial Ludhiana City Centre with immediate effect. The project will, however, carry on and construction work will not stop. 

A fresh agreement will be signed between the Ludhiana Improvement Trust and the company — Today Homes — said the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, while addressing a press conference here today on the sidelines of the ongoing session of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha. 

He, however, rejected a demand of the Opposition for a CBI probe into the matter. An administrator had been appointed by the government to run the affairs of the trust and he had cancelled the power of attorney that allowed the builder to sell property. However, construction would not stop as this was a prestigious project of the state, said the Chief Minister. 

A fresh agreement was being drafted and a ‘‘special-purpose vehicle’’ would be set up to carry forward the project. New clauses would be added, the Chief Minister said.

The Chief Minister said the Akalis were trying to raise a non-issue. A vigilance probe had been ordered. The Vigilance authorities had been asked to submit a report within one month, he added. Also, the necessary steps had been taken to remove whatever drawbacks were detected in the functioning of the Ludhiana trust. It seemed the trust did not enforce the agreement in totality, said Capt Amarinder Singh. 

Today Homes had already deposited about Rs 22 crore in the account of the trust as part of 30 per cent share of the trust from the sale proceeds. When asked about allegations levelled by Mr Sukhbir Badal, the Chief Minister said: " What does he know?" The entire project was worth no more than Rs 1,500 crore and it was being wrongly touted as being a Rs 3,000 crore project. " Mr Sukhbir Badal is just frustrated and he knows that the court hearing in corruption cases against (Parkash Singh) Badal will start soon. Hence, he is raising this issue", the Chief Minister added. He alleged that during the House proceedings Mr Sukhbir Badal, who was seated in the visitors' gallery, was seen directing MLAs, which was wrong and he should have abstained from doing so. 

The Chief Minister wondered how anybody could say that the builder was dealing in black money. No probe could reveal it and it was for the Income Tax Department to nab offenders. " Will any purchaser of property reveal that he deposited some unaccounted cash with the builder?" asked the Chief Minister.

BJP questions Congress silence over city centre scam 
Thursday, 14 September 2006 
LUDHIANA: The BJP Thursday questioned Congress party silence over alleged real estate scam in Ludhiana city Centre project and demanded a CBI probe. "Congress is still quiet on the entire scam involving the Ludhiana City Centre project. The party's silence tantamounted to acceptance of its role in the shady deals, which would cause huge losses to state exchequer," Punjab BJP President Avinash Rai Khanna told reporters here after a protest rally.
Recently a private TV channel, in a sting operation, had claimed that a builder was selling retail space of Ludhiana City Centre through fraudulent means.

BJP, a key ally of SAD (B), has decided to raise the issue in Vidhan Sabha, which will be in session from tomorrow, and demand a probe by Central Bureau of Investigation in the alleged scam, he said. Khanna said the scam will be probed if the SAD (B)-BJP alliance came to power in the elections.

Addressing the protest rally, State BJP General Secretary Rajinder Bhandari demanded Chief Minister Amarinder Singh's resignation on moral ground over the alleged scam.

Ludhiana City Centre is a joint venture between Ludhiana Improvement Trust and Today Home and Infrastructure Pvt Ltd.

Spread over 25 acres, the centre would boast of mega shopping malls, 12 multiplexes, a food court, residential apartments, parking for 8,000 cars and a helipad among other facilities.


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