In the second week of last December, after former mayors Ajit Pal Singh Kohli and Jaspal Pardhan had approached him, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal spoke with rural development and panchayati raj minister Rakhra on telephone.
"The CM told Rakhra to clear the hurdles," said a source in the CM's office. "Pardhan wanted Rakhra to ask the sarpanch of Dudhar village (where the project is proposed) to sign the final no-objection certificate (NOC)."
On Monday, HT reported how Rakhra had passed verbal instructions to sarpanch Harpal Singh to not sign the final NOC until his orders. Harpal had accepted it on record. When Ranjit Singh Brahmpura was rural development minister in the last tenure of the Shiromani Akali Dal government, he as well had requested Rakhra (then constituency in-charge of the SAD from Samana) to give his consent to the project. Kohli was then mayor.
In the past two-years-and-a-half, three mayors have taken over in the city and all have requested Rakhra to press the sarpanch to sign the NOC. A few days ago, Amarinder Bajaj, was the latest mayor to meet Rakhra to get his help in this regard. "Since the project was to end the solid-waste woes of the city, we all tried our best to convince Rakhra but even the CM's asking him to cooperate was to no avail," said a former mayor.
The delaying of the NOC has also held back 200 new jobs for the local youth. Leaders close to Rakhra said the minister feared backlash from villagers, if solid waste was treated in his constituency.
The project, in spite of all clearances from the panchayat, government and the municipal corporation, is stuck for the past two years, waiting for the sarpanch to sign the final NOC to let the government acquire 20 acres for the plant. Of the 40 acres required, 20 acres already is with the Patiala civic body on lease.