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Centre cloud on Lalu mall

Patna, May 19: The Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change has stopped construction work on a mall in Patna billed as Bihar's biggest that is coming up on land owned by a company in which deputy chief minister Tejashwi Prasad and his mother, former Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi, are directors.

Delight Marketing Company Private Limited owns the land at Saguna Mor and Meridian Construction (India) Limited owned by Syed Abu Dojana, RJD MLA from Sursand in Sitamarhi district, is executing the project. Delight Marketing owns the mall and both companies will jointly share profits from it.

The Centre's order is the result of Bihar BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi's complaint to the ministry that the mall, the built-up area of which would be 71,214 square metres (around 7.66 lakh sq feet), was being constructed without environment clearance and that the builder had approached the state environmental impact assessment authority (SEIAA) for clearance after doing excavation work on the land.

"...The ongoing construction at the site without obtaining environmental clearance is likely to cause grave damage to environment," the ministry letter said. "Besides the project proponent has himself admitted in his application that the project needed prior environmental clearance and work on site has begun. So, it is held that the project requires environmental clearance and is a case of violation of provisions of environment impact assessment notification, 2006, and environmental clearance can be granted from the ministry only. In view of above it is expedient to exercise powers under the environment (protection) rules, 1986, rule 4 (5), and issue directions for stoppage of work and maintain status quo at the site."

The letter, which has been sent to Meridian Construction and copies of which have been sent to the member secretary of Bihar state pollution control board, principal secretary of the department of environment and forest, and chairman of SEIAA, added: "In view of the above you are directed to stop the work on site with immediate effect and furnish a report in the matter to the ministry in three weeks."

Sushil Modi shared a copy of the letter, dated May 15, 2017, with the media today.

"I had earlier approached SEIAA but when it did nothing, I approached the Centre leading to this directive as the mall was being constructed in gross violation of rules," said the BJP leader, who has levelled a series of allegations against RJD chief Lalu Prasad and family of owning numerous benami property through shell companies.

Sushil Modi also claimed that the SEIAA didn't take action because Lalu's elder son Tej Pratap heads the department of environment and forest and Lalu's younger son Tejashwi is co-owner of the mall land.

"The chief minister should issue an order for confiscation of the property," Modi said, alleging that Nitish Kumar does not "have the courage" to take action even though he knows the facts.

Delight Marketing was initially owned by RJD MP Prem Gupta and his family. On June 26, 2014, it incorporated as directors Lalu's sons Tej Pratap and Tejashwi and his third daughter Chanda Yadav. In November 2016, it became Lara Projects Pvt Ltd and on February 14 this year it became Lara Projects LLP with Lalu's wife Rabri Devi, and sons Tej Pratap and Tejashwi as directors.

Sushil claimed the mall land was benami property because the land was purchased by Harsh Kochar and transferred to Delight Marketing which was owned by Prem Gupta who later transferred the company to Lalu's family.

RJD MLA Dojana, whose company is executing the project, said he got the Centre's letter today.

"As the clearance can now be obtained from the ministry only, we will approach it within a week with necessary documents for getting its approval," he said, adding that Sushil Modi was levelling baseless charges and that his company had carried out only excavation work and not construction work at the site.


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