NHAI’s Dwarka Expressway Project: Naresh Kumar, the chief secretary of Delhi, is accustomed to being in the forefront of the highly visible dispute between the Arvind Kejriwal government and the Narendra Modi administration on the management of the nation’s capital. He made headlines earlier this year when it was alleged by the AAP that he sent paperwork on service-related concerns directly to lieutenant governor VK Saxena, eschewing the Delhi administration, according to Wire.
New Property Appraisal Dispute Unfolds
However, there is currently a new disagreement concerning the increased appraisal of a piece of property that the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is acquiring for the Dwarka Motorway, which calls into question the possible handling of the situation by Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar. The two businessmen in Delhi, one of whom is married to the promoter of a real estate company where Naresh Kumar’s son works, were to be bought for the site in question. The chief secretary maintains that there has been no misconduct, despite concerns being expressed over a possible conflict of interest, as per wire report.
Rs 353 Crore Awarded for 19 Acres in Bamnoli Village
Two people received compensation of Rs 353 crore, or Rs 18.54 crore per acre, from the district magistrate (DM) of south west Delhi in May of this year for 19 acres of land in Bamnoli village intended for a road project. The Dwarka Motorway project by NHAI was to be built on the area. By doing this, DM Hemant Kumar reversed a 2018 ruling made by the additional district magistrate, who served as the adjudicating authority and had awarded compensation of Rs 41.52 crore for the same piece of property, valued at Rs 53 lakh per acre.
Nine-Fold Compensation Increase Sparks Controversy
A staggering nine-fold increase in compensation was justified by the claim that the site was no longer considered agricultural, as had previously been claimed, but rather a low-density residential neighbourhood. As a result, a greater rate of compensation was required. Vinod Kathuria and his brother Subhash Chand Kathuria benefited from the increased payout. It so happens that Aman Sarin, the promoter of the real estate company Anantraj Limited, is the father-in-law of Subhash Kathuria. In turn, Sarin has tight business ties with Karan Chauhan, the son of Delhi Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar, and it is precisely this relationship that has raised concerns regarding a possible conflict of interest in this case.
NHAI Reacts Swiftly to Compensation Increase
On May 15, 2023, the compensation was increased, and the NHAI noticed it practically right away. The NHAI filed a petition with the Delhi High Court claiming that the DM’s judgement will cause massive cost overruns on other road projects. Cost overruns have been an ongoing issue for NHAI. During a recent CAG assessment of the Dwarka Motorway, the government auditor noted a significant overrun. In a short period of time, the allowed amount of Rs 18.2 crore per kilometre increased multifold to roughly Rs 251 crore per km, or 14 times.