Even as the Punjab government has failed to "decide" on the arbitration fee charged by the Jalandhar divisional commissioner from farmers for deciding their land acquisition compensation cases, revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia on Sunday said the state government was committed to safeguarding the interests of the farmers at all costs.
Majithia's statement assumed significance in the bureaucratic circles for being the first "official" reaction from the government side since the controversy over charging arbitration fee emerged in the media.
While Punjab advocate general Ashok Aggarwal recently termed the arbitration fee charged by SR Ladhar, the Jalandhar divisional commissioner, as 'misconduct' and against the provisions of the All India Services (Conduct) Rules, the chief minister, who is in charge of the personnel department, was yet to take a call on the issue. Ladhar had charged nearly Rs 1.5 crore as fee.
Divisional commissioner Anurag Verma, who joined the office after Ladhar was transferred to Patiala in July last year, deposited back around Rs 10 lakh charged as arbitration fee from the farmers in such cases following the controversy. Verma also sought the government's advice on the issue. But the government neither refunded the said amount, currently lying in the bank account of the arbitrator, to the farmers nor did it justify levying of the fee.