Manali: The delay in commissioning the multibillion-dollar Himalayan Ski Village project, promoted by Alfred Ford of the Ford Motor Company near this Himachal Pradesh tourist town, is causing an annual Rs.30-50 crore (about USD 5-9 million) loss to the state government, an official said.

The mega project, envisaging the construction of 170 seven-star rooms had been cancelled by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party which was in opposition when it was sanctioned in 2005 but has now been restored by the High Court.

After an over two-year legal battle, the promoter, Himalayan Ski Village Private Ltd, has now got green to resume work after obtaining the necessary clearances.

The High Court's 77-page judgement, a copy of which was provided to the media June 29, has not only set aside the BJP government's order scrapping the Rs.1,581.10-crore project but also pointed out serious procedural flaws on the part of the administration.

"The project had hit one roadblock after another after the BJP came to power in December 2007. Now there is a delay of four and a half years. The government is annually losing Rs.30 to 50 crore as royalty," an official, who was associated with the project allocation, said on condition of anonymity said.

He said the company submitted the detailed project report to the previous Congress government and signed an implementation agreement June 5, 2006. "But before the company could get the clearance for starting the project from the ministry of environment and forests, trouble had been started by both the (new BJP) government  and the locals."

Justice Rajiv Sharma observed in his judgement, "It is duly established that the state government had already made up its mind to cancel the project and the issuance of notice based on the recommendations of the (state's high-power) committee was merely a ritual."

"The notice issued to the company January 7, 2010, is without jurisdiction and authority of law. The action of the state to issue notice is unreasonable," the order said. The company had moved the court against the government's show-cause notice in January 2010, which asked it to explain the reasons for not fulfilling mandatory requirements pointed out by the government.

"The state government has changed its stand by initially supporting the case of the company and now by opposing the same on grounds which are not available to it under the law," the judge said.

Former Tourism Minister G.S. Bali, who was pursuing the project during the previous Congress government, criticised the BJP for unnecessarily creating problems for the company.

Chief Secretary Sudripta Roy, however, defended the government's stand, saying, "It's wrong to say the government has acted with any vendetta or bias".

"We had issued a show-cause notice (in January 2010) to the promoters as they had failed to submit the environment impact assessment report and complete other formalities," he said.

He also hinted that the government might move a larger bench to set aside the order but if the judgment is not challenged, the entire process as directed by the court would be followed.

The court said it is true that the interests of the local people have to be watched scrupulously by the governmental agencies by adopting the principle of sustainable development.

"There is a method prescribed. This has not been followed by the state. "Governance is a continuous process. There should be certainty and consistency in the policy matters taken by the state government," the court said.

Alfred Ford, who has an Indian wife, had in April 2004 shown interest in setting up a high-end ski resort project in Himachal Pradesh. In December 2005, the then state government headed by Virbhadra Singh entered into an agreement with the Himalayan Ski Village Company for establishing the project.

(Agencies)

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