04 August, 2021

We Are The Higher-Ups

Using discretionary powers, the government gives away hillsides to the rich and powerful

Anil Dayal
We Are The Higher-Ups

Driving uphill from Chandigarh to Shimla is no longer the visual treat it was even a decade ago: the endless green hills and dewy mountainsides along National Highway No. 22 are now marked with apartment blocks, shops, expensive cottages, restaurants, resorts and now private universities—all signs of the valuable real estate destination Himachal Pradesh has become in recent years. But this tiny hill state does not take kindly to outsiders buying precious farmland here, much less getting it recategorised for non-agricultural use. This is why recent disclosures about governments arbitrarily granting permission to outsiders with clout or money to purchase and develop land here has created a raging controversy, more so because the names of many vips making such purchases have surfaced.

Leading the list of biggies is Priyanka Gandhi. The last two sessions of the assembly were rocked by the Dhumal government’s largesse to advocate-activist Prashant Bhushan’s educational trust, which has been allowed to purchase 4.68 hectares...

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