Priyanka Gandhi Vadra bought 4 &1/2 bighas of land near Shimla for her dream home in high-security Chharabara area. Earlier, entire Gandhi and Vadra family went to inspect the construction work and news stormed in media. Priyanka is a daughter of Sonia and Rajiv Gandhi. Sonia Gandhi is the president of the Congress Party, which is in power in Himachal Pradesh. Couple reportedly have bought two pieces of land. Rules for buying land in Himachal Pradesh is strict as this state is very small and if VVIPs keep buying land and use it to their own benefit then how can tourism work here, which is the main source of income for this Himalayan state. Priyanka’s dream home is located amid thick forests of pine and cedar, the cottage, being built on about 1.4 acres, is close to The Retreat, the summer holiday resort of the President. When late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited Shimla, he often stayed at The Retreat. As kids, Priyanka and her brother Rahul Gandhi are said to have played on the land where the cottage is now coming up.
Construction work at Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra’s holiday home has come to a halt several times. As she was supposedly unhappy with the way the cottage was coming up, especially with the size of the rooms, and structure. In April this year, the entire structure was dismantled. Lakhs of rupees gone wasted. The cost of making and breaking went beyond the cost of actual land prize. In September last year, the slate roof had been brought down after seepage was reported. A pile of bricks, some wooden poles, a dismantled structure, a locked-up shed and some debris now exist at this pretty location of hilly Shimla. Later on, Sonia Gandhi went to inspect the construction of Priyanka’s summer holiday home. She also asked the developer and architect to raze it and incorporate fresh designs. Vadra-Gandhis reportedly wanted the cottage to be designed in accordance with vastu shastra.
The then Himachal Pradesh government had relaxed norms under Section 118 of the Land Reforms and Tenancy Act to facilitate the sale, as otherwise only the state’s permanent residents can buy land in the state under the Himachal Pradesh land laws. Others who want to purchase land for non-agricultural purposes have to seek relaxations under Section 118 of the Land Reforms and Tenancy Act from the state government.
Getting the land for dream house was not very easy for Priyanka, which is situated just below the Kalyani helipad, from the Soods, an affluent family now based in the US. The property was registered in the name of over a dozen family members. It was very difficult to get them together and talk business. Incidentally, a death occurred in the family. It was only then they could reach out to them. Priyanka bought the nearly 1 acre plot (4.25 bighas) for around Rs. 47 lakh four years ago. The market value of the plot now is Rs. 1 crore a bigha. The authorities in Himachal Pradesh maintain that there is nothing illegal in the deal.
With the stunning Shaali peak in the backdrop, there are cedar and pine trees all around. Anyway, the stalled work of dream house has begun once again. Priyanka sanctioned a double-storey cottage. Originally, it was a lot of wood. Now, the walls will be of reinforced concrete and a roof of slate. There were to be three to four rooms on each floor earlier. They were marked as study, guest, family and lounge, though the final shape hadn’t been given. Before the dreams of Priyanka come true, the dream home has hit the headlines.
It was on 2 July 2014, RTI activist Debashish Bhattcharya under section 6 of the RTI act had sought information from the Public Information Officer at the Deputy Commission’s office. He asked for the details of the piece of lands being allowed to be purchased by Mrs. Priyanka Vadra at Shimla by the government of Himachal Pradesh. He asked for the details enclosing the certified copies of the all the documents, note sheets, file noting etc. from the initiation to the finalization of the said land deal. Besides, he had also asked for the details about the relaxation being given in rule for the purchase of the said land [processed by the government of Himachal Pradesh]. RTI applicant also wanted to know about the status of the land use as on date. However, Priyanka Gandhi has denied information by saying that it could be threat for her life. The RTI activist had also raised serious concern over this issue that how information regarding purchase of land could be threat for somebody’s life.
According to the revised draft rules in Himachal Pradesh Land Reforms; Non-Himachali can buy the land for home or shop but after the approval from the government. Earlier, it was limited to shop and house to a minimum of 500 square meters and 300 square meters of land. Now, there are no such conditions and they can buy any amount of land. Before taking land for public employees, there is 30 years of service condition. Now, according to the new rules they do not have to wait much longer. Regular job employee shall be eligible to buy any time in Himachal. HP Government has simplified the process of buying land for non-Himachalis. The Government has been issued the draft of notification to modify the rules of the Department of Revenue Land Reforms Act of 1972.
Mystery still remains from whose accounts the financial transactions have been done and what is the source of funding in buying these pieces of land?