46% of land allotted to SAU not available for construction due to legal issues: CAG
Nearly 46 percent of the land allotted for setting up the South Asian University (SAU) campus was not available for construction activities due to environment and legal issues, the CAG said and cited “lack of due diligence” by the MEA while accepting land from the DDA.
In 2008, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) had assured the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) of 100 acres of encumbrance-free land for building the campus for SAU, envisaged as a world-class institute which would attract the brightest students from all South Asian countries.
The MEA approved the proposal for purchase of 100 acres of land at an estimated cost of Rs 75.45 crore.
Of the 100 acres, the DDA handed over 85.32 acres of land in February 2010 and another 8.36 acres in August 2011, totalling 93.68 acres to the MEA.
“The MEA, in turn, handed over the land to SAU in September 2011 without transfer of title of land,” the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report, which was tabled before the Lok Sabha today, said.
The CAG observed that land measuring 18.59 acres fell under “geo-morphological ridge/forest land where no construction is allowed” without the approval of the Union government and the Delhi government.
“The fact that this land fell within the geo-morphological ridge/forest was informed by the Forest Department of the Delhi government in October 2013 to SAU and subsequently confirmed in January 2015. No clearance has been received for undertaking any construction on this land as of October 2017,” the report said.
The CAG further observed that, as of October 2017, twelve cases involving 23.10 acres of land meant for the SAU campus were pending in different courts.
“There was evidently, a lack of due diligence on the part of the MEA in interacting with the DDA to ensure land free from all environment and legal issues before release of funds,” the report said.
This also led to the delay in construction work. The SAU decided to commence the construction of campus only on the encumbrance-free land.
The construction of the campus was split in ‘Package-1’ which included building boundary wall, porta cabins for the site office, and this was completed in January 2016.
Under the second phase, five buildings, including faculty of Life Sciences, Earth Sciences, three staff housing block and faculty club and guest house will be constructed. This is to be completed by end of December this year.
In third phase, seven buildings are to be completed by January 2020.
“The fortnightly report of construction under Packages II and III of the SAU campus ending July 2017 brought out the shortfalls ranging from 29.54 percent to 45.5 percent against the planned work,” the CAG report said.
The CAG also observed that a loss of Rs 70.79 crore was reported due to short collection of business visa fees by Indian Mission and posts in China.
It was found that Indian Embassy in Beijing and its consulates in Guangzhou and Shanghai were collecting visa fees at a lower rate, the report said.