Of the 95 acres of panchayat’s agricultural land sold illegally at Jodhwal village near Machhiwara in Ludhiana district over almost two decades, including the 50 acres plundered for sand, an Akali councillor had got 9 acres mutated illegally in the names of his wife and daughter in 2011.
For a year now, Punjab Vigilance Bureau (VB) is sitting on investigation into the nexus of the land and sand mafia.
In June 2014, the VB chief director, director general of police Suresh Arora, had started to identify the officials behind the illegal sale deeds of the village common land and the mining activity there. The special investigation team (SIT) formed in September 2014 to submit the findings in two months is yet to finish the task.
Led by the VB senior superintendent of police in Ludhiana, Satinder Singh, the SIT is to meet in Ludhiana on Monday. The team includes senior officials from the departments of rural development and panchayat, revenue, and power, besides the mining wing of the industries department. After three extensions of two months each, the SSP has written to the chief secretary for another two months.
“The matter relates to what happened over many years, which demands that we examine the old revenue records as well,” said the SSP, when asked to explain the delay in the investigation. In September 2012, he had submitted a preliminary inquiry report highlighting the illegal sale deeds of the panchayat land in gross violation of The Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Act, 1961, which had led to the formation of the SIT.
Inspector general (VB) AS Rai, who supervises the SIT, said he would make the inquiry faster.
The 9-acre deal
In June 2014, Machhiwara Akali councillor Narinder Singh Dhanoa had brought naib tehsildar Surinder Singh from Samrala tehsil to Machhiwara sub-tehsil and got the sale deeds and the subsequent mutations executed in the name of his wife and daughter within 10 days. These 9 acres of what was panchayat land have, so far, been sold four times between 1983 and 2011, the latest to the Akali councillor’s family, going by the revenue land record of which HT has a copy.
Dhanoa denied that he was at fault, saying he had purchased the land from a private party, and it had been sold thrice before. “It is the fault of the revenue officials who were supposed to check the record,” said Dhanoa.
The mafia nexus
Of the 95 acres in question, illegal mining continued over 50 acres for the past 10 years until October 2012, of murderous assault on whistleblower Lakhveer Singh. After HT reported the matter, Lakhveer received a personal police guard; but illegal mining continues on the 9 acres in the illegal possession of the Akali councillor, and other land mutated illegally in the names of 32 other private parties.
Since 2005, Lakhveer had been screaming about illegal mining on the Jodhwal panchayat land, complaining to the mining wing of the industries department, and to the rural development and panchayat officials.
Mining wing deputy director Sarvjit Singh told HT that his inquiry report about the role of his department’s officials was ready and he would submit it in the SIT’s meeting coming up on Monday.
The other report
Before the vigilance bureau made an SIT, the-then Ludhiana additional deputy commissioner (development), Rishi Pal, had come out with a report in October 2012. It indicted three revenue officials, a block development and panchayat officer (BDPO), and a mining officer for facilitating land grabbers and ignoring illegal mining that had lowered the level of 50 acres by 15 to 20 feet.