Almost a year after her husband’s sudden death in 2017, 46-year-old Balwinder Kaur received another shock. She found that a property that her husband had inherited in Outer Delhi’s Nangli village, near Najafgarh, had a Metro pillar standing right in the middle of it.
In 2015, the property had been acquired by Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) when her family was in the United Arab Emirates — with no intimation of the intended acquisition or offer of compensation, she said.
When the family approached DMRC last year, they received another jolt. They were told that a man had presented a no-objection certificate (NOC) claiming ownership of the property based on which it had been acquired by DMRC.
The man’s claim of ownership had not been verified by DMRC.
“My husband, Sodhi Singh, had gone to Sharjah to wrap up our business there. Because of the economic depression of 2014 we had suffered some losses and we decided to move to Canada instead. I was waiting for our permanent residency (permit in Canada) in Delhi while he was there,” Kaur said.
On August 2, 2017, Singh was still in Sharjah when he had a heart attack and passed away.
“Before this, I never had to worry about anything. Property, sustenance or even the kids,” she said as tears welled up in her eyes.
She came to know about the Nangli plot being occupied for Metro construction when she took a casual a round of the property.
The plot, measuring 326 square yards, had a pillar of the Metro’s upcoming Grey Line (connecting Dwarka with Najafgarh) pillar in the front. The rest of the property was illegally occupied by a squatter.
HT has copies of proof of the late Sodhi Singh’s ownership of the plot and letters sent by the DMRC calling property owners for acquisition of their lands.
Verifying Kaur’s claims, the DMRC, said in response to a Right To Information application that the NOC it received was from a person identified as Bhupinder Singh, but he could not produce any documents to prove that he indeed was the owner of the plot.
Insisting that no compensation was paid for the acquired land, the DMRC said in an email response to queries from Hindustan Times, “DMRC follows a prescribed procedure while dealing with such cases and conducts verification to confirm the ownership of the land before paying any compensation.”
“No compensation has been paid to anybody since nobody established their ownership with respect to this particular land. Bhupinder Singh had given NOC for the construction of the Metro pillar on the basis of which the construction was done. He was asked to submit the ownership documents as well, but he has not submitted the same till date,” the statement added.
When asked why DMRC did not verify the plot’s ownership before the land acquisition, a senior Metro official privy to the case said that a notice of property acquisition was sent out in 2015 to the owners of the 29 plots that fell on the route of the new corridor. Bhupinder Singh had responded to the DMRC.
Owners of the other 28 plots produced property documents and were given the compensation, the official said.
“We cannot stall the construction of a line because of one property. But our policy is clear, even now anyone who proves their ownership will be given the compensation,” the official said.
DMRC officials working on other corridors, who did not wish to be identified, said, “Such a lapse has never occurred in the history of DMRC’s functioning. Usually, the documentation regarding third party properties is properly checked. But we are working under strict deadline pressure, so maybe this was a result of that.” The official said that for example, during the construction of the Pink Line, connecting Majlis Park to Shiv Vihar, the DMRC was forced to change the design of the Ashram station because it could not acquire permission from the owner of a tract of private land.
When contacted by HT, Bhupinder Singh said that he had submitted “required documents to DMRC” but he was never given the compensation. He did not clarify whether he was indeed the owner of the property in question. “I have met DMRC and Delhi Police officials to resolve the matter,” he said.
Narender Singh, Kaur’s brother, said the family had knocked on every door it could for a solution to the problem. The thought of taking on a government agency such as Delhi Metro has often scared him.
“Initially, whenever I spoke to the police officials telling them that this was a slip up by the DMRC, no one believed me. Such a case has never come up against the Metro in the past,” he said.
Narender Singh clarified that in meetings with the Metro officials over the last two months, they had assured the family that they will initiate a compensation process as soon they get the ownership documents. The family is determined to ascertain first how the property fraud had taken place.
“My brother-in-law left my sister and her two children, both of who are just seven years old. If they had not come back and this unfortunate situation had not fallen upon our family, maybe we wouldn’t have even known about this fraud,” he said.
Last month, a complaint was registered by Kaur at the Najafgarh police station against Bhupinder Singh’s alleged forgery. The complaint is yet to be converted into a first information report.
“We have initiated the process of lodging an FIR,” a police official of the area said on condition of anonymity.