What is the controversy surrounding Sukhbir Badal’s resort, Sukhvilas?

Sukhvilas Spa Resort, run by Oberoi Hotels, in Palanpur near Chandigarh is facing controversy once again, with Cabinet Minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal recently announcing that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government would take action against the resort.

We take a look at the Sukhbir Singh Badal-owned resort and the controversy around it.

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What is Sukhvilas?

The Oberoi Sukhvilas is named after former Deputy Chief of Punjab, Sukhbir Singh Badal, who owns this property on the outskirts of Chandigarh, lovingly called City Beautiful.

The resort has luxury villas, rooms, and tents with private pools. Spread over 25 acres, the tariffs are sky high, with a luxury villa costing around Rs 2 lakh and tents with private pools priced at around Rs 40,000.

It was opened for the public in December 2016.

How did it come up?

The proprety in Palanpur where the resort was constructed used to house a poultry farm owned by the family of former Punjab chief minister, Parkash Singh Badal.

After the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) formed the government in 2007, redevelopment began, with construction completed in 2016, just a few weeks before the 2017 Assembly elections in the state.

What is the controversy surrounding the resort?

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), before 2017 elections, had alleged that under the eco-tourism policy of the state, such projects could not come up on more than 2.5 acres of land. However, Sukhvilas was spread across a vast area, over 25 acres in size.

AAP also alleged that the land acquisition notification for a metalled road was issued by the government a day before the model code of conduct came into effect, on January 3, 2017. As many as 100 acres of land to build a 200-foot-wide road was laid amid allegations that the road connected Sukhvilas to Chandigarh airport. Previously, the resort was connected to the airport through the PGI-Mullanpur road.

What happened during Congress regime from 2017 to 2022?

In 2018, during the reign of former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s Congress government, an IFS officer named Harsh Kumar had stirred up controversy when he wrote to the NGT that land preservation law PLPA 1900 and Forest Conservation Act, 1980 were not followed properly in the ecologically sensitive zone of lower Shivaliks in Mohali. Sukhvilas was one of the properties involved.

Harsh Kumar also claimed said that requisite permissions were not sought under Punjab Land Preservation Act of 1900 (PLPA). However, nothing came out of it.

What has Sukhbir Badal said?

Till date, Sukhbir Badal has repeatedly challenged the governments of the day to find any violation the resort has committed.

Last year, after Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann threatened action against Sukhvilas during Sangrur Lok Sabha byelection, Badal challenged him to produce the documents showing violation.

Furthermore, Metro Eco-Green Resorts, the company which set the resort up, has also strongly denied  any violations, stated that all required permissions were taken from time to time.