The officers of the rural department went on strike in Gurdaspur district on Monday to protest against an alleged threat by former minister and SAD leader Sucha Singh Langah to eliminate the district development and panchayat officer (DDPO) for not complying with his wishes in the allotment of panchayat land.
DDPO Jagwinderjit Singh Sandhu, accompanied by all 11 block development and panchayat officers from the district, gave a representation to deputy commissioner Abhinav Trikha seeking registration of a criminal case against Langah.
The deputy commissioner, who met SSP Gurpreet Singh Toor to discuss the issue, later informed the delegation that a three-member committee, comprising additional deputy commissioner (development) Lakhwinder Singh Dhaliwal, superintendent of police (detective) JS Kainth and Gurdaspur block development and panchayat officer Mohinderjit Singh, would look into the complaint and submit its report to him by December 17.
DDPO Sandhu said he had allotted 94 acres of cultivable land of Kalanaur panchayat to the successful bidders on December 2 at Rs 65.65 lakh. He said he had received Rs 63.55 lakh from the bidders on the spot while the remaining Rs 2.1 lakh was yet to be recovered.
He alleged that on December 13, when he was at his residence in Patiala, he received a call on his mobile phone from Langah, who threatened to eliminate him for allotting the Kalanaur panchayat land on lease against his directions.
Sandhu alleged that Langah used abusive language and threatened him that he would get the same treatment which was earlier given to then Gurdaspur DDPO Ranbir Singh Mudhal. Mudhal, now posted as Tarn Taran DDPO, was allegedly assaulted and badly injured by the men of another Akali leader from the district at Shahpur Jajan in Dera Baba Nanak block in Gurdaspur in 2010 for not allotting some panchayat lands to his men.
Sandhu said he had complained about the alleged threatening call from Langah to the Patiala police on the same day.
He said that a few days before the auction, Langah had told him on phone that every year he got some chunks of Kalanaur panchayat land allotted to his favourites and demanded that certain plots be given on lease to them this year too. The DDPO alleged that Langah had issued him a veiled threat, saying, “If you want to serve in the district, you will have to conduct the auction as per my wishes. And if you don’t, I will get you implicated in a false case.”
The DDPO asserted that brushing aside Langah’s threats, he conducted the auction in a transparent manner that angered the SAD leader.
Despite repeated attempts, Langah, who is also district president of the SAD, was not available for comment.
Meanwhile, Sandhu said the Rural Development Officers’ Association, Gurdaspur, had decided to wait for the decision of the district administration on his complaint for two days, and in case the administration failed to take action by December 17, he would move the Punjab and Haryana high court the next day.
The DDPO said he had also urged the district police to provide security to him.
When contacted, the deputy commissioner told HT that he had received the complaint and had formed a three-member inquiry committee to investigate the complaint and submit its report by December 17. Trikha said he would decide on the action after getting the report.