Dharamsala, April 10 - It pays to have a chief minister father. That is why Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) president Anurag Thakur has managed to get away with an illegal construction meant to house Indian Premier League (IPL) players here next week, alleges the state's opposition.
Anurag Thakur, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from Hamirpur, is the son of Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal. Both are under fire for giving clearances to land for the Rs. 35 crore (Rs. 350 million) project called The Pavilion.
The government allotted land to the HPCA for a minimally priced lease, that too within a few days of the request by the HPCA.
"In fact, we are asking the government why it has allocated Rs. 3 crore for developing Dharamsala town before the IPL matches," state Congress chief Kaul Singh Thakur told IANS.
"It is a patently wrong decision and we are asking the government to recover the money from the HPCA as it is functioning on corporate lines. It has been receiving special treatment from the government only because of the son of the chief minister," he said.
The Town and Country Planning (TCP) department had slapped a notice on the HPCA in February for the resort and asked it to demolish the structure. But the state government went ahead and gave clearances to the project.
The same TCP officials now say all formalities have been completed by the developer and the property, which will host national and international cricketers in two IPL matches here April 16 and 18, is perfectly "legal".
"We had issued notices to the HPCA Feb 24 this year asking it to stop construction of a residential complex being developed for the cricketers as necessary permissions had not been taken," assistant Town and Country Planner R. S. Premi told IANS.
"But the HPCA later submitted its building, site and location plans and got all approvals."
Due to non-availability of a five-star hotel in the vicinity of the HPCA stadium here, 250 km from state capital Shimla, the association is developing the residential complex for visiting players with expertise and material from New Zealand. It is located at Kand village near the stadium.
"In the last week of March, all permissions have been given to the developer to build a two-storey complex under Section 31 of the Town and Country Planning Act. It has also deposited Rs. 649,000 as fees to get the building regularised," Premi said.
"The cricket association has clarified that the complex would be used for accommodating players only and not for commercial purposes," the official said.
But the Congress says the state government had violated rules to favour the HPCA. "The government has bent the rules to favour the HPCA. Why has the HPCA submitted the master plan of the building and other revenue records late? In the name of developing sports infrastructure, the association is grabbing land," said Kaul Singh Thakur.
"Of course, the town and country planning department has withdrawn the notices under the influence of the chief minister's office," he alleged.
However, Anurag Thakur told IANS: "There is no illegal activity associated with the construction of the residential complex. It's simply for players and no commercial activity would be allowed there. We have responded to all the notices issued by the government. Initially, there were some hiccups but now all have been streamlined."
He said the government has allotted land to the HPCA on an annual lease for Rs. 13 lakh and Lockwood, a New Zealand-based company, was constructing logwood luxury huts, with the mighty snowcovered Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas forming a perfect backdrop.
"The residential complex would provide five-star facilities to the players and there is no proposal to develop the complex later into a five-star hotel," he added.
"Initially, the HPCA was planning to construct 90 rooms, but due to time constraints we decided to construct 32 rooms only."
Around 20,000 spectators are expected to witness the matches on April 16 and 18 at the picturesque HPCA stadium - one of the highest cricket grounds in the world at 4,000 feet.
It will host a match between Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) and Deccan Chargers April 16. It would be a day and night match. The second match, to be played in the day, is between the Chennai Super Kings and Kings XI Punjab April 18.
The stadium here is being counted as the second home ground for the Kings XI Punjab team, which originally belongs to Mohali near Chandigarh. (IANS)