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 district development and panchayat officer (DDPO) for not complying with his wishes in allotment of panchayat land.
DDPO Jagwinderjit Singh Sandhu, accompanied by all the 11 block development and panchayat officers from the district, gave a representation to Gurdaspur deputy commissioner Abhinav Trikha seeking registration of a criminal case against Langah.
Deputy commissioner called senior superintendent of police Gurpreet Singh Toor in his office and had a discussion with him over the issue. He 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 (DC) by December 17.
DDPO Sandhu said that he had allotted 94 acres of cultivable land of Kalanaur panchayat to the successful bidders on December 2 at `65.65 lakh. He added that he received a sum of `63.55 lakh from the bidders on the spot while the remaining `2.10 lakh was still to be recovered.
He alleged that on December 13, when he was at his residence at Patiala, he received a call on his mobile phone from Langah who threatened to eliminate him for allotting Kalanaur panchayat land on lease against his directions.
Sandhu alleged that Langah used abusive language against him and threatened him that he would be meted out the same treatment which was earlier given to then Gurdaspur DDPO Ranbir Singh Mudhal. Notably, Mudhal, now posted as DDPO at Tarn Taran, was allegedly assaulted and badly injured by the men of another powerful Akali leader from the district at Shahpur Jajan in Dera Baba Nanak block in Gurdaspur district in 2010 for not allotting some panchayat lands to his men.
Sandhu said that 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 was done, 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 also alleged that Langah had given 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 do this, I will get you implicated in some false case."
The DDPO asserted that brushing aside Langah's directions and threats, he conducted the auction in a transparent way which angered the SAD leader.
When HT called up on the phone number allegedly used by Langah to threaten the DDPO, the recipient gave his identity as Nirmal Singh of Amritsar and told that this number belonged to him and not to Langah.
The mobile phone of Langah, who is also district president of the SAD, was switched off.
Meanwhile, Sandhu said that the Rural Development Officers' Association, Gurdaspur, had decided to wait for the decision of the district administartion on his complaint for two days and if the administration failed to take action by December 17, he would move the Punjab and Haryana high court the next day to seek justice.
The DDPO said that he also urged the district police to provide security for him.
When contacted, DC Trikha told HT that he had received the complaint and had formed a three-member enquiry committee to investigate into the complaint and submit its report by December 17. Trikha said that on receiving the report, he would decide the action be taken in this regard.