The department of rural development and panchayats has failed to initiate action against the officials in the Rs 200-crore land scam wherein 19 acres of panchayat land of Jhamat village in Ludhiana was sold to private entities.
Department director Balwinder Singh Multani and minister for rural development and panchayats Surjit Singh Rakhra have failed to initiate action against the guilty "administrative officials".
On the contrary, the department has charge-sheeted district development and panchayat officer (DDPO) Amarjit Singh Bains and block development and panchayat officer (BDPO) Dhanwant Singh Randhawa, who helped unearth the scam with the help of whistleblowers Gurmukh Singh and Gurpal Singh, residents of Jhamat village.
The department has ignored the BDPOs who were posted in Ludhiana after 2007 and were responsible for following the case in the court of law, but they did not.
Based on an inquiry report submitted by BDPO Randhawa, Rakhra had told HT that they were taking legal opinion to initiate action against Sumer Singh Gujjar, who was ADC (D), Ludhiana, in 2003; Sarabjit Singh, former director, rural development and panchayats; and Harbhajan Singh, consolidation officer posted in Jalandhar in 1994.
The report also carried the names of former BDPOs Harmandeep Singh, Santosh Kumari, Navneet Joshi and Mahinder Singh. Some of the above officials had served in Ludhiana for two tenures.
But no action has been taken against any of these. As many as five inquiries have been conducted in the case in the past five months and two are in process.
Having taken a tough stand on the issue in the beginning, Rakhra has now gone into a passive mode. He had appreciated the work done by the BDPO along with two whistleblowers, promising them to bring the case to its logical conclusion, but following the recent protest by BDPOs, DDPOs and other department officials, the minister has gone quiet.
On the other hand, despite having undergone harassment at the hands of police officials allegedly at the behest of a local political leader who is siding with the guilty, Gurmukh Singh and Gurpal Singh have put up a brave front and have left no stone unturned to retrieve the panchayat land. Gurmukh Singh was mercilessly beaten up and his car smashed by unidentified people on August 24. It took the police 35 days to record the statements in the incident; ADCP Joginder Singh recorded the statements on September 28.
Meanwhile, the sarpanch of Jhamat village, Gurmeet Kaur, daughter-in-law of Charan Singh, former panch, the main accused in the scam, said the allegations against her father-in-law were baseless. "We want that the government land be retrieved and will cooperate with the authorities," the sarpanch said.
Multani, when asked about the status of the case, said, "We have charge-sheeted the DDPO and BDPO as they have failed to take appropriate action in the case."
While replying to the "missing names" of the ADC (D), consolidation officer and former director, rural development, who were named in the recent inquiry report sent from the office of the Ludhiana ADC (D), the director said, "ADC (D) Rishipal Singh is inquiring into their roles and will soon submit the report following which action will be recommended to the departments concerned."
He said the department had engaged a competent lawyer to fight the case in the Punjab and Haryana high court.