Construction of new colleges in KP faces delay
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By Mohammad Ashfaq | 8/14/2017 12:00:00 AM
PESHAWAR: Construction of new colleges approved in the province has become an uphill task for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Higher Education Department (HED) due to the irrational land acquisition policy of the provincial government, according to sources.

The HED acquires land through the district administration for construction of new colleges on the average annual rate, which is usually much lower than the actual market rate, they said.

`It is not land acquisition rather a sort of land snatching from the owners by force,` a deputy commissioner of one of the districts told Dawn. He said that land was acquired for the construction of any government building under Land Acquisition Act 1894.

Asl(ed whether price of the land fixed by the government matches the market rate, the DC said, `We acquire land at much lower prices compared to the market rate.

He said that the district administration took average of the annual transactionrate in the respective areas and applied it to the land required for the construction of a college or school.

The people while buying land for personnel use show very nominal price on record to avoid taxes, the DC said, adding that was why the average annual prices were very low when a district administration took its average rate.

About 25-50 kanals are required for the establishment of a college, the sources said. If the land price is high the HED acquires 25 kanals and in case of low price it goes for 50 kanals, they added.

They said that when the district administration acquired land at meagre prices the landowners challenged the land acquisition in the court. As such, the construction of colleges is delayed till arrival of any decision by the court, they said.

No one shows readiness to give his land for construction of colleges at the price fixed by the government, they said, adding that it was injustice with the landowners to buy a piece of land at Rs1 million while its market rate was Rs10 million.

The previous two governments would usually go for land acquisition for colleges through negotiations with the landowners to avoid litigation and complete the construction as soon as possible, the sources said.

The negotiations used to be done by a purchase committee headed by the concerned deputy commissioner. Assistant district officer (finance), relevant tehsil-dar and patwari and representatives of the local government and higher education departments were members of the committee.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led provincial government has approved 52 colleges, including 36 for girls, across the province in the previous four years. The sources said that land was not yet acquired for many of them due to meagre prices offered to the owners.

About two years ago, Chief Minister Pervez Khattak had directed the revenue department in a meeting to make the land acquisition process easy and realistic as the landowners were reluctant to give their lands for the construction of any government building. However, the sources said, the issue couldn`t be solved.

`We have also seen the landowners approaching the influential people in the government to block acquisition of their lands for the colleges,` the deputy commissioner said.

When contacted, adviser to the chief minister for higher education department, Mushtaq Ahmed Ghani, told this correspondent that the chief minister was aware of this issue and had already directed the deputy commissioners to acquire land at the market price.

`The deputy commissioners are reluctant to buy land for the colleges at the market rate due to fear of inquiry by anti-corruption bodies because the market rate is not the government rate,` the adviser said.